When it comes to discrimination, it has not been a good week in the sports world. Unfortunately, on Wednesday night in Boston after Joel Ward scored an overtime series clinching goal to push the Washington Capitals past the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins he faced racial taunts both in the TD Garden and on social media. If that’s not bad enough, last night a highly intoxicated Detroit Tigers outfielder, Delmon Young, was arrested for allegedly shoving a man to the ground and shouting anti-Semitic remarks. As someone who is trying to make in the sports industry and who has seen my fair share of both racist and anti-sematic remarks first-hand, both of these stories really hit home with me, and to be honest really frustrate me.
I’ll start with the story about Joel Ward and my hometown Bruins. On Wednesday night Ward scored the game winning goal in game seven of a highly contested series off a rebound surrendered by Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. It was the first playoff series in National Hockey League history to have every goal decided by just one goal and unfortunately what happened afterwards killed the moment for me. His goal ended the Bruins season and automatically made him a villain to B’s fans not only in greater Boston area but around the country. A few fans decided to take that hatred a bit too far, and decided to use racial language towards Ward, who is a dark-skinned Canadian hockey player whose parents happened to from the Barbados islands. A few ignorant and misguided fans couldn’t believe that a “nigger” was responsible for ending the Bruins season and they let him hear about it on the social media site Twitter. You can read a selection of the comments here, but let me warn you, the language is not for the faint of heart: http://chirpstory.com/li/6781. I wrote an 800 word column about this incident the night it happened but decided not to post it because I didn’t want to misrepresent true Bruins fans or over-dramatize what happened since I do know that way worse happens every single day in other integrated cities.
And that leads to what happened last night outside of a midtown Manhattan hotel with Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young. Young, a former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, who had found himself suspended in April 2006 for tossing his bat at the home-plate umpire during a minor league game, found himself in trouble with the real law for from what I have been able to find is his first time. After an altercation that occurred at about 2:40 A.M. EST this morning, Young was arrested by the NYPD for third-degree assault and an aggravated hate crime, as he apparently spewed anti-Sematic slurs towards a man that he was involved with an incident with outside of the 6th avenue Hilton early the morning. It is unfair to speculate on what happened and the justice system will play itself out and facts will come forward, but as it stands this does not look good for the Young family. Delmon’s brother Dmitri has dealt with a battle with alcohol, depression and diabetes and has been arrested before for domestic violence and possession of drug paraphenilia in the past, so hopefully this situation is not as bad as it seems and Delmon will able to move on with his life after accepting responsibility for whatever his role in this altercation was.
Racism and other discrimination such as ethnic, religious beliefs, social class, gender, or sexual orientation have no place in the sporting world that I hold so dear, nor society in general. Sometimes I feel like as a culture we have made huge strides towards accepting people who are different than us, but then events like what happened this week occur and it feels like we’ve again taken two major steps backward towards acceptance. There is never a time or a place to hate on a black man for scoring a goal who beat your team, or for knocking down an old Jewish dude outside out of the team hotel, but this week both of those unfortunate events occurred. As a society we still have a long ways to go, and sadly the sporting world is not immune to these events. The sports world has always been a microcosm of our society in general, and thank you to the select group of Bruins fans and to Delmon Young for proving that our society still is nowhere near we need to be when it comes to accepting others as our neighbors.