It was a powerful moment shared between players — and the world — during the national anthems ahead of Wednesday’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. What Nazem Kadri said after the game was perhaps even more powerful.
While the first few games of the re-started NHL season has seen players from both teams sharing the two bluelines during the anthems, rather than the traditional two teams being separated on their own respective blueline, the Avs and Wild took it a step further.
The four Players of Color on the ice — Avs forwards Nazem Kadri and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Wild players Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway — chose to stand side-by-side, resting their hands on each other’s shoulders so as to stand in unity with one another.
“I think it was a nice moment of solidarity with what’s going on in the world today: the injustice, the racism issue. I think it’s an important thing to come together and unify as players,” Kadri said after the game. “From a player standpoint, I know we all stick together.”
While the NHL as a league has been largely quiet in terms of making statements regarding the racial injustice and inequality in America, which has resulted in protests across the country, players have done their part in speaking out.
Take for example, the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that Kadri spent the first decade of his career with. They all wore “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts when they showed up to training camp earlier this month. The Boston Bruins have come out and said they will lock arms during the national anthems in solidarity from here on out. Other teams will likely follow suit. Various players from around the league have been spotted at protests in their home cities and some have been outspoken about the issues on their personal social media accounts.
“As players we have addressed it,” Kadri continued. “From a league standpoint, I think we’d like to see a little more acknowledgement, and to have (the NHL) address the situation and to know that they stand with their players.”
In an eyebrow-raising move, the Avalanche’s official Twitter account was called out for cutting out that last part of Kadri’s quote in a video they posted after the game. The account claimed the quote was “cut for clarity” before later posting the full video in the comments.
But that, too, certainly helped in making Kadri’s point: why has the league been so quiet through all of this? The players are at least trying to do their part. The league that they belong to, however, has largely hid in the shadows.
Update: The Avalanche has now re-posted the Kadri’s full statement with the caption “We need to do better, we’re going to do better.“
Sports has and always will be a reflection of culture and society. And with such a large market and viewership that major league sports have, many players and leagues have used their massive platforms to make bold, strong statements in light of recent events.
The MLB, for example, were the purveyors of a powerful moment between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees during the league’s opening day festivities last week. Players all knelt, shared in the holding of a 600-foot symbolic black cloth and sat in silence for 60 seconds. In addition to that, baseball fields around the league have also flipped their MLB logo to read “BLM,” a nod to Black Lives Matter.
The NBA was also quick to take action, pasting “Black Lives Matter” in large bold black letters on all their courts in their bubble city of Orlando. The Toronto Raptors rolled up to the bubble in Florida in buses adorned with “Black Lives Matter” on the sides of them.
The NHL, an overwhelmingly white league, has lagged behind in these sorts of efforts.
The league did unveil its plan to use the hashtag “#WeSkateForEquality” inside Edmonton’s and Toronto’s respective arenas, in addition to the aforementioned mixing of players on the bluelines. And Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer, has said there would be tributes for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as COVID-19 front-line workers, which will all be part of a “powerful opening night” this Saturday.
But is it all too little too late? It feels like the bare minimum, and the so-far weak performative gestures leave much to be desired. And that certainly seems to be the feeling among Kadri’s contingent and other Players of Color around the league.
“Hockey’s a great game, we’re all trying to make it better. We’re trying to make the game more diverse and the diversity in the game doesn’t happen with racism still going on,” added Kadri. “So that’s an important thing for us to address.”
The league’s silence is deafening, especially from its players’ perspective. It begs the question: Which side of history will the NHL be on?
The players would like to know.