Two of the faces of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and the game’s strongest proponents for the need to address anti-Black racism in the sport, are expressing their disappointment with the NHL’s lack of response to the weekend shooting by police of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
In an appearance on Sportsnet’s 650 on Wednesday, Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba — who raised a fist to highlight social and racial justice issues during the anthems of his qualifying-series game against the Vancouver Canucks earlier this month — said the league’s decision to hold playoff games Wednesday, despite cancellations across the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS, is “disheartening,” but expected.
“I know what’s going to happen, and I don’t think much is going to happen from that standpoint. But it’s just back to it, I don’t know, the NHL we’re always late to the party, especially on these topics, so it’s sorta sad and disheartening for me and other members of the HDA, and I’m sure other guys across the league,” said Dumba.
“But if no one stands up and does anything, it’s the same thing — it’s just that silence that you’re just outside looking in on actually being leaders and invoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”
Kane — who also been outspoken on issues of racial injustice since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police this spring sparked protests across North America — told Sportsnet’s David Amber on Wednesday that it’s “disappointing” the NHL has yet to acknowledge Blake, who was unarmed and was shot multiple times by police in Kenosha, rendering him paralyzed.
“First thing’s first is acknowledging it,” said Kane.
“It’s another instance, unfortunately, that still hasn’t been acknowledged and we’re about, what? Three or four days into this video being released, or this incident occurring? And I still haven’t seen or heard anything in regards to it, so that’s disappointing and as a Black player in this league, it’s even more disappointing.”
The NHL did hold a moment of reflection prior to Game 3 between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
With the league’s silence, the onus has fallen, once again, to players of colour, such as Dumba and Kane, to speak out against racial injustice. It’s a torch they’ll continue to carry, but one that’s burdensome and that they’ve been forced into shouldering.
“I hope guys find it in them to stand up. You can’t keep coming to the minority players every time there’s a situation like this. The white players in our league need to have answers for what they’re seeing in society right now, and where they stand,” said Dumba.
“I know there’s a lot of them that are good people. There’s a lot of good people in hockey, but the silence is as bad as the violence. You gotta step out and really hear people’s stories and have that empathy about why we’re doing what we’re doing now.”
Dumba emphasized the need for their white peers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the fight.
“It’s so much bigger than sports. In hockey, that’s what it comes back to: you’re relying on the minority guys to step up and say it. But what would really make the most impact is to have strong white leaders from teams step up and have their two cents heard,” he said.
“All the other white kids who grow up watching them, who might be their biggest fans, can look up and say, ‘Wow, if he’s seeing this and trying to stand up and listen, then why am I not as well? Why am I continuing to hold on to this ignorance or hate that I feel toward a subject that I maybe don’t know everything about?”
It’s a sentiment shared by Kane.
“Here’s another example, unfortunately, but it’s another example of the lack of (response) with regards to our league and our players and our media that cover our game. It’s not just my responsibility as a minority player in the NHL to be talking about these issues. It’s not just Wayne Simmonds, or Akim Aliu or Joel Ward or Matt Dumba’s stance or issues in this society — it’s everybody’s,” he said.
“And until everybody decides to take it upon themselves, maybe step away from some of their privileges, to educate themselves and really fight with us, we’re going to be in the same situation as we are our today.”