In the world of North American sport, there isn’t one particular professional pursuit that doesn’t come with its baggage.
The National Football League is rife with domestic violence charges, substance abuse problems and more. Ray Rice, Josh Gordon and even the memory of recently deceased former NFLer Rob Bironas was tarnished with a dark side.
Major League Baseball, America’s national pastime, is still embattled with the scars of the so-called “Steroid Era.” Ryan Braun was once the poster boy for the new clean era of MLB until he too joined the likes of Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco.
Last season, the National Basketball Association was picked apart by the regrettable racial remarks made by Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Meanwhile, hockey fans sit and point fingers at the atrocities committed by those connected to the other major North American sports, while failing to realize the follies within their own game.
In the darkness of night, racism’s ugly head reared itself high Tuesday evening after both the Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun published a photo of Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Jordan Subban, accompanied by a cutline identifying the 19-year-old defenceman as the “dark guy in the middle.”
The cutline was removed, but not before outraged hockey fans, journalists and editors could express their disappointment.
Early this morning, both Vancouver dailies tweeted their apologies.
“The Province regrets an insensitive description of Canuck Jordan Subban in a photo caption on our website last night,” The Province communicated through two tweets. “We apologize to Subban, the Canucks and their fans for any offence. We are examining our process to ensure it can never happen again.”
“Last night we ran a photo caption that should never have been written, let alone run online. We apologize to @jordansubban,” The Sun communicated through two tweets. “The Sun is looking into this so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Subban had scored his first NHL goal during pre-season play Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the NHL hopeful was instead answering questions about the photo caption Wednesday morning. He played off the incident with class, telling The Province’s Ben Kuzma that “it seemed like a pretty honest mistake.”
The unfortunate reality is racism still exists within the world of Canada’s national pastime — on the ice, in the stands, and in the world surrounding it.
You might argue this isn’t a problem the National Hockey League should be worried about, rather an issue for The Province and The Sun to take care of. The sad state of reality is it is indicative of a problem within the game we all should be concerned with.
During the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins. Throughout that series, Habs rearguard P.K. Subban (Jordan Subban’s older brother) was hit with a wave of racist remarks via social media channels such as Twitter.
During the 2011 NHL pre-season, a fan threw a banana at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.
In his playing days, current Philadelphia Flyers head coach Craig Berube was suspended for one game after he called former Florida Panthers forward Peter Worrell a “monkey.”
Those are just a few examples of the heavy discriminatory baggage weighing down the world of the National Hockey League.
Racism and discrimination have absolutely no place within our society, let alone within Canada’s beautiful game. I would like to believe we, as a society, have made significant strides when it comes to the acceptance of everyone we share this world with, regardless of size, shape, skin colour, sexual orientation or other uniquely identifying characteristic.
As much as the National Hockey League is the custodian for the professional game of hockey in North America, each one of us holds care-taking responsibilities for the game as well. Just as players develop their skills and abilities at the grassroots level, the attitudes and culture of the sport are polished there too, by both fans and players.
As fans of the game, we have a responsibility to help abolish the existence of this atrocious behaviour within our sport. No matter how heated the competition, no matter how high the stakes, and regardless of the depth of your fandom, it is on all of us to eradicate discrimination from hockey, and all facets of society.
One day, we will wake up to a sports story celebrating a player scoring his first National Hockey League goal, rather than a story of outrage at the inconsiderate and thoughtless racial actions surrounding it.
Jordan Subban, I hope you remember your first National Hockey League goal for what it was — a great accomplishment representative of the years of blood, sweat and tears given to the game of hockey — and not for what was being talked about around hockey circles and newsrooms today.
Though I don’t expect North American professional sport to ever truly rid itself of all it carries, I do dream of a day where racism and discrimination are no longer found within that baggage.