What Bruins fans did on Twitter after Joel Ward scored in overtime has no place in sports. Tempers flare in hockey, especially overtime playoff hockey. While at times what competitors say on the field or court or rink can be forgiven with the heat of the moment that does not extend to fans.
The long list of insults hurled towards the Africa-American player range from the inappropriate to the truly obscene. Fans blinded by rage decided Ward’s skin color, which stands out greatly in Hockey, was to blame for their misery.
These same fans likely have pictures of Paul Pierce, or Kevin Garnett on their walls. Surely the superlatives said about Ward barely cross their lips when talking about these players (or they do when they make a mistake).
Sports thrives on the belief that fan passion will withstand everything. You’re players may be bad people off the field, doesn’t matter. Your team may lose, it doesn’t matter (unless you live in Los Angeles or Miami).
This isn’t just a race thing, though that shouldn’t be downplayed. And it doesn’t just result in attacks for opposing teams. Boise State’s kicker Kyle Brotzman received threats via Twitter and Facebook after ruining Boise’s chance at an undefeated season.
Teams need to do more to curve this kind of action, by penalizing fans that do it in the stadiums and those that do it on official team platforms. Shining light on this dark side, easier now with platforms like twitter, helps to notice that this isn’t just hooligans taking the sport too seriously: it’s a lot of us.
Joel Ward isn’t just a case of racism and a conversation about race that needs to happen but had Ward been white many of these fans would have gone on to call him a f****t for his goal. There’s always some place to go for these fans. They need to be penalized like the English fan that mocked Muamba after he had a heart attack on the field.