Seattle Kraken join Black Girl Hockey Club's anti-racism campaign

A flag with the new logo for the newly-named Seattle NHL team, the Seattle Kraken, flies atop the iconic Space Needle Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

The Seattle Kraken have announced that the organization is taking the "Get Uncomfortable" pledge, an anti-racism initiative founded by the Black Girl Hockey Club nonprofit, becoming the first NHL team to do so.

The Get Uncomfortable Campaign's aim is to develop a set of recommendations for how entities involved in hockey -- at all levels -- can "meaningfully contribute to the movement against discrimination and oppression of BIPOC communities in society," according to its website. Since the campaign's launch on Sept. 23, more than 3,300 pledges have been registered and shared on social media.

"The Kraken have a passion for the sport of hockey as does Black Girl Hockey Club and we are aligned with the mission to disrupt racism on and off the ice," Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Kraken, said in a press release. "We are committed to making our great game accessible to everyone. It will require challenges to the norm and commitment throughout our sport."

In addition to advancing discourse on systemic racism in hockey, Black Girl Hockey Club's pledge includes three actionable objectives:

• Encourage the hockey community to make a welcoming space for Black girls and all members of BIPOC communities as players and fans of the sport.

• Recruit and employ BIPOC applicants to begin the process of diversifying hockey at all levels.

• Educate the hockey community on social justice and allyship with guidance from BIPOC leaders, anti-racism experts, advocates, players and fans.

"Like every hockey fan, it's exciting to see the teamwork and team mentality needed to win a Stanley Cup," Renee Hess, founder of the Black Girl Hockey Club, said in Seattle's press release. "It's one big reason I love this game -- players on the same wavelength through all the rounds of the playoffs. What we want to do with the Get Uncomfortable Campaign is unravel that part of the hockey culture that makes team more important than each individual deserving to be treated with respect and equality."

Hess started the Black Girl Hockey Club in 2018, with the aim of bringing together Black women to enjoy hockey games, learn about the sport and celebrate the Black community's history in the game.

The ambition to do so stemmed from her experiences attending NHL games in person.

“I remember being a little intimidated, a little unnerved, because walking into a hockey arena, I didn’t see any faces that looked like mine. I didn’t see any women of colour there, any Black women,” Hess told Sportsnet in February. “After I’d gone to a couple live games, I started wondering, ‘Where are all the Black women fans?’ I had been pretty active on Twitter for a few years, so I started looking for Black girl hockey fans online, seeing if I could find where these women were. And I think I found a few!”

Since its inception, the community has grown to include hundreds of members, and has organized meet-ups in NHL cities across the United States, as well as events featuring Black players and community leaders focused on discussing diversity and inclusion in hockey.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those in-person events, but Hess and the Black Girl Hockey Club have continued to be a presence, staging virtual discussions with stakeholders, advocates and thought leaders in the hockey community -- which sparked the Get Uncomfortable Campaign the Kraken pledged to be a part of.

"We're really excited about what Seattle is already doing as a franchise," Hess said. "It's been amazing to watch."

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