Posted on May 21, 2020

Hockey Has a Racism Problem, but Its Biggest Stars Remain Silent

Shalise Manza Young, Yahoo! Sports, May 20, 2020

Let’s rip the Band-Aid off from the top: the silence of white NHL players when it comes to the racism their fellow black hockey players continue to endure is deafening.

On Tuesday, a powerful piece written by former NHL player Akim Aliu was posted to The Players’ Tribune, and in it, Aliu details more of the racist abuse he endured from childhood on as he pursued his NHL dream. Aliu wants to see change in hockey, to make “Hockey is for Everyone” more than a catchphrase rolled out for a couple of weeks every year.

Aliu didn’t say it, but in order for that to happen, white players will have to step up and speak out.

I’m not talking to the black players here. They know what racism is; they’ve experienced it. It’s not their job to fix it. Not alone anyway.

No, with only a reported 43 players of color in a league of over 700, they cannot create change by themselves. And again, it’s not their job.

In the six-plus months since Aliu revealed on Twitter that his then-coach Bill Peters directed the N-word at him repeatedly in 2009 over Aliu’s taste in music, he hasn’t gotten a lot of support from those within the sport. We’re hard pressed to find any of the NHL’s stars who have gone on the record, whether with reporters or on social media, to condemn racism within hockey.


Aliu wrote that he’s met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss inclusivity, and that their discussion is ongoing. At the Board of Governor’s meeting last December, Bettman reportedly unveiled new league policies and training programs, including mandatory counseling on racism and bullying for NHL personnel. He also said there would be an anonymous hotline to report such incidents.

{snip} Bettman also said that the league has retained an outside firm to investigate other “issues that have already been brought to light,” and that there’s plans for an executive inclusion council that will work at the league and club levels.


Aliu wrote that he doesn’t want to drag hockey and everyone associated with it into the mud. He wants to fix the game he loves.

If he’s going to do that, he’s going to need help — help from white players.