Editor, White Cover Magazine
Finally somebody said it. Finally somebody defended the innocent actions of Evander Kane, and finally somebody said those words we all knew we’d finally hear a hockey player say, one day. It’s just too bad it had to be Kane, himself, who said them.
“I think a good portion of (the criticism of me) is because I’m black and I’m not afraid to say that,” the left winger told The Hockey News. (*The story is set to come out on March 4, said The Sporting News.)
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If you really want to understand the ludicrousness surrounding the situation that was Rob Parker’s old school racist tirade against (yes, against) Robert Griffin III last week, all you have to do is read Clinton Yates’s column on RGIII and black athletes in football from August 21.
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Leave it to Europe to leave nothing to the imagination.
Whether it’s bold and sometimes violent French kissing – despite varying levels of attraction in either partner – or fans’ monkey calls at black players in packed stadiums, Europeans certainly don’t mind letting us know their opinion of anybody, be it tasteful, bitter sweet, or vomit-inducing.
(Of course, I am generalizing, but isn’t that the way it’s done now?)
Past grievances and events are just kind of glossed over with time, and moments that would be met with outrage or an inward look at our game in North America are simply confronted with awkward silences and – at most – a collar-tugging reaction across the Atlantic.
Such is the system when you have too many countries with too many varying definitions of ethnic tolerance. Such is the system when you’ve fought two World Wars, largely as the host, and you’re still fighting. Such is the system when political tensions give way to economic tensions, and when some countries just don’t have what other countries do.
(On that note, good thing Greece and Germany aren’t in the same group, even if I’d like to imagine Greece going to the bathroom when the post-match bar bill comes.)
Such is the system where racism is not just a historical footnote, but a continued practice.
And so, when black Dutch players received their Jim Crow-inspired welcome in Krakow last week, we were shocked, stunned, and depressed, but hardly surprised.
This stuff ain’t new.
Euro 2012 has been a smorgasbord of varying levels of acceptance. On one hand, you had the Krakovian crowd throwing monkey chants towards Holland, which was later described as an isolated incident. As we all know, there are lunatics everywhere in the world, and just because some of Poland’s folks were racist that day doesn’t say anything about the other 38 million who live, love, and work there.
But, racism, is viewed by many as a pinpointed trend in that area of the world. You know, we call it Europe.
“If we talked about physical attacks and cases of hate crimes, it’s definitely a problem in big cities (in Ukraine)… If we talk about xenophobia, it’s everywhere.”
And yet, not far from Krakow, members of the English national soccer team were visiting Auschwitz, placing candles on the tracks at the world’s premier symbol of death and hatred. It was a visible and emotional example of cross-border love and understanding.
Of course, one of those players visiting Auschwitz was John Terry, who was accused earlier this year of tossing a racial barb at fellow Englishman Anton Ferdinand, who is black. So close, and yet so far.
And then, there’s Poland.
Perhaps the most cursed political nation in that continent’s modern history, the Poles have plenty to be angry about and plenty to hate about Germany, Russia, or any of the Soviet Union’s former billion outlying provinces. They’d even have a reason to hate all men with mustaches.
(If you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, here’s Wikipedia.)
And, wouldn’t you have it, Russia and Poland will face-off – quite literally – on Tuesday. Oh, and of course, Tuesday is Russia Day, so a portion of the 10,000 Russian fans who have bought tickets will be holding a patriotic march from central Warsaw to the stadium, and Polish police will be providing protection and safety. You know, because old habits die hard.
Even though Russian fans do this before every game, they say, Poles view it was “provocative.” Can you really blame them?
(Ironically, Russia Day honours the country’s split from the USSR and its shucking of Soviet rule. But, who has time for education.)
In Canada, nationalism at the Vancouver Olympics was mistaken as “Berlin, 1936″ by a reporter in Texas, and all Canadians did was climb a couple telephone poles (no pun intended) in celebration.
In Poland, they actually once had Nazis. Oh, and Soviets. And, a whole lot of other bad guys before them. And, not bad guys like The Joker or Bane, but real bad guys who murdered millions. And, millions.
In perhaps a pre-eminent strike, Polish papers Monday morning printed pieces and front pages taunting Russia about the Miracle of the Vistula in 1920, when Poland defeated the Bolshevik Army and some say halted Communism’s spread through Europe.
You know, nothing like a little light ribbing.
(By the way, notice that line from the above link, “The Treaty of Riga resulted in the end of the hostilities between Poland and Russia in 1921.” That’s like saying, “The election of Herbert Hoover resulted in the end of the Great Depression.”)
It’s too bad this all has to happen, because there’s been some fantastic footy in only four days of scheduled action. I mean, we all knew it would happen in some way, but it’s still a shame, and in more ways than one.
And, of course, who am I to speak about conflicts or violent outbursts? My city destroyed itself a year ago because it lost a hockey game. There were no politics involved, unless you note that the government’s only media company set up free street parties for all of us. And, we broke their television sets.
The whole world is messed up in some small way – and some big ones – and, yes, some of these racial occurrences are worse than others. I’m not trying to compare John Terry’s possible dropping of a slur with anything that happened at Auschwitz, or trying to compare the historical tension of Poland and Russia with… well, anything, really.
But, in this whole Venn diagram of shifting alliances and violent patriotism, it would be nice if we could all really just get along. After all, hate is hate, no matter your sweater or your coat of arms.
They say it’s all about the football, but it never really is, is it?
Is it the murder, the racial stuff, the mystery around the everything, the posthumous release? Is it how it became a theme song for the American Civil Rights movement, or how it inspired and perhaps laid the ground for another entry on our list?
Is “A Change Is Gonna Come” the best song of all-time?
My, how a year changes everything. My, how 400 years changes nothing.
In one night, the Boston Bruins descended from the defending Stanley Cup champions and the ultimate “made for the playoffs” squad into just another team upset in the firs round. In one night, the Washington Capitals went from that star-studded team that never could into a gritty, hard-working bunch of boys who just might.
We won’t re-print what was said by social media’s finest. We will tell you that Ward is black, and that the comments didn’t shy away from using the most taboo word you could ever think of to describe someone who is black.
In fact they used that one word – you know, it begins with an ‘N’ – at a premium. It was the focal point of their Tweets. The other 134 characters revolved around it.
They used it with more ignorance than a Dukes of Hazzard fan who defends the General Lee’s Confederate Flag roof, or the General Lee’s name… the General Lee.
This isn’t like the one fan in London, Ontario who threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds. This isn’t like the Steve Barch incident where he apparently might have said something that could have been taken as racist – and it’s highly believable that it was just an honest mistake with some improper phrasing using the word “banana.”
And, really, this is nothing like the roof of the General Lee.
This is one of the more despicable acts you could catch on Twitter. Actually, it’s the most despicable. Denying the Holocaust would be up there, too.
It’s shame we have to share a planet with some of these folks, but that’s just how it is.
As for Joel Ward, he’s the hero tonight. He’s the light. Remember that, above all else.
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