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Tuesday FTB: How will we know when there’s real change

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Now is the time to speak out against racism

Pittsburgh Penguins v Edmonton Oilers

Out of all the people that write for PPP, I would rank myself dead last as far as who would be the best person to write about racism — both in general and within hockey. I am not the smartest person here. I am not the most aware. I am not the most experienced with issues of racism. I am not the most equipped to figure out and communicate the right thing to say about it. I have the worst balance of all of those things, and everything else that you can think of that a person should have to write about it.

But I’m going to write about it now, because the situation across North America since George Floyd’s murder on camera and the resulting protests is simply impossible to ignore. This feels different than anything else I can remember in my lifetime. I cannot write about hockey, and act like everything is fine.

Just because I feel I am the worst equipped to tackle this issue, does not mean I think I shouldn’t. I owe it to people like Hardev and Omar, whom I would call my friends, to vocalize my support for them and what they fight for. I have seen them speak passionately about this on Twitter, and they should not have to shoulder this on their own.

So I will keep this short and sweet, and I will say it unequivocally: our society has inherently racist systems. The United States AND Canada fail people of colour all the time. Whether it is the legal system, sports, STEM fields, the economy, the government, or anything else. It fails them again, and again, and it’s absolute bullshit that it can take murder and an extreme response like rioting to maybe get a little bit of positive change. It’s depressingly tragic that we have to wage wars in our cities with police and each other over something as simple as treating everyone the same way we want to be treated ourselves.

Katya wrote yesterday about how sports isn’t a bubble, it’s a part of our culture and our society. The same culture and society where racism still obviously exists. It affects everyone, including hockey players. In that article, Katya listed and quoted some of the significant responses from people and groups in the sports community.

But you know what gets me most frustrated? You know what has the most cynical part of my brain screaming that nothing will change despite everything that’s happened? It isn’t how bad some of the responses have been (like the Islanders), it isn’t how a picture of star players seen in a Blue Lives Matter hat have emerged, and it isn’t the deeply sad message K’Andre Miller released since the racism he faced on a Zoom call to welcome him to the New York Rangers franchise after signing an ELC.

It’s that the biggest stars in hockey won’t say anything. I crowd sourced a question to the rest of the masthead about who they thought the biggest stars in hockey to speak out at all have been.

Auston Matthews was one, although we remarked it wasn’t all that strong. We still appreciate he said something. Jonathan Toews was the consensus for biggest star with the strongest message. So Auston Matthews gets the award for biggest current star saying anything, but Toews gets the gold star for the best statement.

As of me writing this, neither McDavid or Crosby have said a single peep. Not even the shortest sentence they hired a PR firm to write for them about the situation. No support, no stance, nothing. And on the one hand, you might say well they’re sheltered white athletes, they’re the last person you would want to take any kind of bold and profound stance on such a divisive issue.

But on the other hand, this seems like something that should be different. This is so big now, and it doesn’t seem like it would cost them anything to use their fame and platform to announce their support. We saw the sheer, thunderous silence from non-POC players about the Akim Aliu situation. We’re seeing slightly more response to the protests, but not a lot.

What would it cost them to speak out, to just tweet out “Black Lives Matter”? Would they lose their jobs? Endorsement deals? Would they be shunned from the sport? Have their legacies tarnished? Would it cost them anything more to do a bit more than that? To match what Jonathan Toews or Blake Wheeler or Kevin Weekes or Evander Kane or Logan Couture have said?

They don’t have to do anything, in the sense that there is no legal compulsion to say anything. But they should say something. If there is ever a time for hockey to break out of their shell of silence on empty statements focused only on hockey, it’s now.

I will know that there real change has burrowed into the collective brains of our society when the stars of hockey actually come out and say something in support. Because if dumb, ignorant, insecure, unaware Brigstew who can’t even reply to the right comment half the time feels that it’s right to say something, then they should too.

ONTO THE LINKS

Grading NHL Team responses to the #BlackLivesMatter protests | by Hockey In Society

Black people are dying. White athletes need to speak out | by Donnovan Bennett at Sportsnet.

Some other Leafs are speaking out:

AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD

Final ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 100 prospects | by Scott Wheeler at The Athletic.

Ex-Leaf Frank Corrado is heading to Europe, probably smart considering the chances that there is no AHL next season.

A bunch of former draft picks went unsigned by their NHL teams, and will therefore re-enter the draft.