NHL players and teams speak out on protests, George Floyd’s death

NHL players and teams made strong statements against racial inequality over the weekend, using social media to address the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

Floyd died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. He was 46. Chauvin, fired last Tuesday, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers were also fired, but have not been charged. The death of Floyd, who was black, was the catalyst for protests around the world over the weekend.

The flood of messages on Twitter and Instagram started after San Jose Sharks star Evander Kane called out his peers in the NHL to break their silence.

“We need so many more athletes that don’t look like me speaking out about this, having the same amount of outrage I have inside, and using that to voice their opinion, to voice their frustration, because that’s the only way it’s going to change,” said Kane, who is black, on ESPN’s “First Take” last Friday.

Kane’s teammate Logan Couture was one of the first players to post a statement:

Minnesota native Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets said that “America is not OK” and that “George Floyd’s life mattered. Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. So did every other life that has been lost by this senseless violence and racism.”

Wheeler’s teammate Mark Scheifele posted a video produced by Nike on Instagram, while writing, “We all have a responsibility to act. We are called to love one another and do what we must in order to pursue justice and equality. I cannot pretend to understand but, I can stand with them, learn from them, and offer my alliance.”

Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes also took to Instagram to tell a personal story about how his perspective changed last year when he and his wife adopted Emersyn Ruth Slavin, who is black.

“My wife and I hate that it took having a black daughter to open our eyes to the racism and injustices that go on in our world and our country. We especially hate that it went on in our own hearts, but it did. We are by no means perfect and are not claiming to know everything, but we are committed to continuing to learn and stand with People of Color in fighting against those injustices to make our world a safer and better place,” Slavin wrote.

Zack Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks had one of the strongest statements of any player, tweeting that, “if you think the current way black people and other minorities are treated here today is OK, you are a racist. If you don’t have an opinion or are ‘neutral’ on this subject then you are ignorant and very misinformed.”

As Kane has noted in the past, racism in “the hockey world is easier to ignore, dismiss and forget because, let’s face the facts, hockey is a white sport. But there are black players in the league and other minorities in our sport.”

Many of those players of color made social media statements as well regarding the death of Floyd, including Mathieu Joseph of the Tampa Bay Lightning:

J.T. Brown, a member of the Minnesota Wild’s organization, tweeted:

Former NHL goalie and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes responded to a critic with a heartfelt message about his experiences in the league:

Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the league’s most prominent Latino-American player, also released a statement:

The NHL,NHLPA, NWHLPA and PWHPA have released statements and boosted statements from their players.

As of Monday afternoon, 21 out of 32 NHL teams have either boosted the statements of players or released a statement of their own. That includes 14 out of 16 Western Conference teams, including the expansion team in Seattle that debuts in 2021, but just seven out of 16 Eastern Conference teams.

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