NHL players and teams made strong statements against racial inequality over the weekend, using social media to address the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
Floyd died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. He was 46. Chauvin, fired last Tuesday, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers were also fired, but have not been charged. The death of Floyd, who was black, was the catalyst for protests around the world over the weekend.
"We need so many more athletes that don't look like me speaking out about this, having the same amount of outrage I have inside, and using that to voice their opinion, to voice their frustration, because that's the only way it's going to change," said Kane, who is black, on ESPN's "First Take" last Friday.
Kane's teammate Logan Couture was one of the first players to post a statement:
My thoughts. Sorry if this offends anyone. All love ❤️ pic.twitter.com/9BbktIrxqd— Logan Couture (@Logancouture) May 30, 2020
Minnesota native Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets said that "America is not OK" and that "George Floyd's life mattered. Ahmaud Arbery's life mattered. So did every other life that has been lost by this senseless violence and racism."
I needed to say something in my own words. pic.twitter.com/VpkidaMjbX— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) May 31, 2020
Wheeler's teammate Mark Scheifele posted a video produced by Nike on Instagram, while writing, "We all have a responsibility to act. We are called to love one another and do what we must in order to pursue justice and equality. I cannot pretend to understand but, I can stand with them, learn from them, and offer my alliance."
"My wife and I hate that it took having a black daughter to open our eyes to the racism and injustices that go on in our world and our country. We especially hate that it went on in our own hearts, but it did. We are by no means perfect and are not claiming to know everything, but we are committed to continuing to learn and stand with People of Color in fighting against those injustices to make our world a safer and better place," Slavin wrote.
Zack Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks had one of the strongest statements of any player, tweeting that, "if you think the current way black people and other minorities are treated here today is OK, you are a racist. If you don't have an opinion or are 'neutral' on this subject then you are ignorant and very misinformed."
My thoughts I felt compelled to share. pic.twitter.com/OcvJ1B7UyT— Zack Smith (@Smit_Treat15) June 1, 2020
"As a person who definitely falls into the white privileged category, I know I will truly never know what it's like to walk in a black man's shoes," Holtby said. "But I know I have arms, and ears, and a voice to walk beside and listen to every word of anguish and give my strength to every black man, woman and child until their shoes weigh the same as mine."
As Kane has noted in the past, racism in "the hockey world is easier to ignore, dismiss and forget because, let's face the facts, hockey is a white sport. But there are black players in the league and other minorities in our sport."
Some thoughts. pic.twitter.com/3WfQZWK1pd— Mathieu Joseph (@MathJoseph7) May 31, 2020
J.T. Brown, a member of the Minnesota Wild's organization, tweeted:
What would you do to prevent your murder? To prevent the murder of your child, brother, sister, friend, community? We tried to peacefully kneel or raise a fist but that made us un-American, a distraction, a son of a bitch. Today I am a thug, but tomorrow will I be a hashtag?— JT Brown (@JTBrown23) May 29, 2020
Former NHL goalie and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes responded to a critic with a heartfelt message about his experiences in the league:
**Attention World** pic.twitter.com/3dE6aZrt9q— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) May 31, 2020
As of Monday afternoon, 21 out of 32 NHL teams have either boosted the statements of players or released a statement of their own. That includes 14 out of 16 Western Conference teams, including the expansion team in Seattle that debuts in 2021, but just seven out of 16 Eastern Conference teams.