After months of only sporadic social media posts from individual players, the entire Leafs roster finally rolled back into the public eye yesterday morning as training camps opened around the league. The team decided to take a moment when they had the attention of most, if not all, Leafs fans to make a statement through the photos posted on their social media accounts.

Since the start of the protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made several statements as an organization in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The first came out in late May, in the midst of most (but somehow, still not all) NHL teams making similar statements, with varying degrees of... directness.

After their initial statement, an internal town hall with MLSE employees in late June resulted in the following being posted, showing further commitment from both Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas to carry the words from that initial statement forward into long-term actions.

It’s easy for teams, organizations, corporations, etc., to capitulate to public pressure in moments like this and make a statement in support of a social movement. The communications team will type up their statement, checking off a few key pieces of language and gracefully sidestepping anything too “controversial”, and send it off without any further thought. What MLSE’s subsequent town hall promises, however, is a deeper commitment to change. And while I’m incredibly skeptical of any institution’s claim to being committed to anti-racist action, and acknowledge that wearing shirts is a very easy and basic action to take, it is still a visible, and unambiguous, statement of continued support (and, for certain fans, absolutely infuriating, if the replies on that first tweet are anything to go by).

We still don’t have a lot of public information on what MLSE is doing internally and externally to move forward with their commitment to anti-racism. Although the protests have cycled out of the mainstream media, and many other organizations have had their commitment start and stop at a single public statement, the Leafs decided to open up their training camp by showing that they haven’t moved on, and they haven’t forgotten.

Let’s see what they do next.


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Maple Leafs lines from the day 1 scrimmage
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From the Branches

What opening day of NHL’s Phase 3 looks like around the league
Sportsnet checks in with every team across the league as they return to the ice.

Penguins voluntarily sideline 9 players as NHL camps open
The Penguins held back the players due to secondary exposure.

Kyle Dubas in depth ahead of the opening of training camp: On Return to Play, life in the bubble, a healthy roster, Nick Robertson, the flat cap, the matchup vs. CBJ
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And finally, the latest COVID-19 numbers from the NHL: