BOSTON (CBS) – Sports are beloved around the world because they provide the ultimate distraction from the troubles that plague the “real world.” It is when those real world issues invade the sports world that things can get ugly.
That was the case on Wednesday night in the aftermath of the Capitals’ Game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins, when Joel Ward scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Ward is one of the small group of NHL players who are black, and his dramatic goal prompted dozens of Twitter users to send out a barrage of racist, hate-fueled messages about Ward.
The Bruins responded with a terse statement Thursday afternoon on their website.
“The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night. These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.”
The NHL also issued a brief statement, saying:
“The racially charged comments distributed via digital media following last night’s game were ignorant and unacceptable. The people responsible for these comments have no place associating themselves with our game.”
Ward told USA Today he didn’t know about the controversy until his teammate Jeff Halpern showed him on the flight back to D.C.
“I’m definitely getting a lot of support,” Ward said. “There have been a lot of Boston fans who have supported me, which is very cool to see. No hard feelings from me. This is a game,” Ward told the paper, adding that the tweets were “shocking to see,” but didn’t ruin his day.
It was a disappointing display of humanity, according to Ward’s Boston-based agent, Peter Cooney.
“It’s appalling,” Cooney told The Globe And Mail. “Where we are in North America now, it’s hard to believe we still have that prejudice. It’s disturbing. It’s really disgraceful.”
Cooney stressed that the hateful tweets do not represent the views of any majority of Bruins fans, Bostonians, or any other group.
“I think it’s a very small amount of people,” he told the newspaper. “I’d like to think that anyway. With [social media], these people get to have a platform that they can put this out there, and it’s too bad. I think if they knew Joel, they would not have this attitude.”
Cooney also said that he doesn’t expect Ward to be affected by the tweets, almost all of which are unsuitable to be reprinted.
“He’s heard about it, but he said, ‘Peter, don’t worry. That stuff never bothered me,'” Cooney said.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis also discussed the tweets on his personal blog.
“What these people have said and done is unforgivable,” Leonsis wrote. “I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs. There should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate mongering. Their messages should now stay glued into the algorithms to place a forever warning and a mark upon these people and their actions. They shouldn’t be able to escape their keystrokes.”
The Capitals organization also released a statement.
“We are aware of some of the racial comments that were made following our overtime victory last night and are outraged by those individuals who expressed such ignorant comments. We find such comments to be totally unacceptable.”