What It's Like Being A Fan Of One Of The Most Racist Sports In The World

What It's Like Being A Fan Of One Of The Most Racist Sports In The World

Dear NHL, I love you, but there are some things you need to work on.
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Willie O'Ree, Evander Kane, Devante Smith-Pelly, Wayne Simmonds, and P.K Subban: All of them are extremely talented men and trail-blazers in their own right. Besides being Black, what's another thing all of these amazing guys have in common? They helped me fall in love with the sport of hockey.

I remember being 4-years-old and trying to find a sport to get into. Baseball was great, football was cool, but there was something about ice hockey that enticed me more than any other sport. The ability to skate, hit, fight, move, and score on the ice created magical memories for me as a kid on the ice and in the seats. Madison Square Garden was practically my second home whenever my mom's boss offered free tickets for her and myself. The Mighty Ducks got me started, the New York Rangers taught me (and still count me as one of their biggest fans), and to this day I still drag my loved ones to games with me while I sit for the national anthem.

I love the sport of hockey. The feeling, the look, the atmosphere, the intensity. Everything. I could never tell you what exactly it was that made me fall in love with the sport, but I know I will be a fan until I can't watch anymore. It's no secret though, that the NHL's fanbase isn't home to some of the most progressive fans in the world. Ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Willie O'Ree did the same in hockey. Bracing the cotton balls and racial slurs hurled at him just like Robinson ten years prior, O'Ree skated onto the ice and paved the way for players and fans of my complexion to find another sport we could love so dearly.

You'd think over fifty years would make a difference, wouldn't you? You'd be sadly mistaken. Over the recent years, players like Wayne Simmonds endured having banana peels hurled at him during a shootout (one on one play) in Montreal, and Devante Smith-Pelly most recently had the word "Basketball" yelled at him, after a trip to the penalty box for fighting a Chicago Blackhawks player in Chicago. They have had to deal with these problems for nearly their whole careers.

O'Ree said in an interview that you do not have to look back to his days of playing to find prominent racism in the sport, and he was right. The racism of the NHL and its fanbase isn't just saved for its players, as fans like myself aren't spared any less. Now, as my experiences are nowhere near as serious as those on the ice, it still continues to bother me that the thought of whoever I sit next to at a game, will not share the same views, or like me based on my complexion. I humanly cannot count the number of times I've heard the N-word spewed by fellow players on PS4 or Xbox when playing NHL branded games. I cannot count the number of times I've seen a customer clutch their bag, or had to rethink about the things someone has said to me as a sales associate at the NHL Store in Manhattan. Any racist remark, or action, is unacceptable in every way.

Whether it be a fan or player, the NHL and its fanbase needs to understand that hateful comments or actions done to these people are not acceptable, even though you cannot really expect more from a sport that's been heavily populated by white men since its inception. I guess my plight is really with those in charge of the NHL. As we have a month dedicated to "Hockey Is For Everyone," it still doesn't fill the void left by the NHL for rarely ever acknowledging Black History Month, or trying to expand the game to urban areas mainly consisting of Black and Hispanic residents.

There should be no reason why J.T Brown, a winger for the Anaheim Ducks organization, received death threats after raising his fist during the national anthem before playing against the Florida Panthers when he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning. For months, I've been torn between the young activist in me and the hockey fan I've been since I was four. Columbus Blue Jackets coach, John Tortorella, stated that he would bench players who sat for the national anthem during the World Cup Games in 2016. A prime representation of white privilege, it's people like Tortorella (who is a former Rangers coach mind you) that prevent me from being fully dedicated to the sport. It's people, like the ones I encounter every game, who prevent the NHL from becoming such a beloved sport to more and more people across the U.S. because of their ignorant views.

Of the roughly 982 total NHL players who have stepped on the ice this season, only around 30 are Black. I've heard words of those within the fanbase that say hockey players are real men which is why they don't kneel during the anthem, or that the NHL needs to not put itself within political views. Those who have said that fail to remember that 1) Most NHL players are white, and 2) Opening the game for "all" people is not meddling within political views. If you do not believe that Black people, Hispanics, women, or people within the LGBTQ community do not deserve to be apart of the NHL community, then you are an asshole.

Dearest NHL, I love you, but you need to work on your image.

Cover Image Credit: SB Nation NHL / Twitter

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When You Give A Girl A Pair Of Cleats

It's more than a pair of shoes.
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When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her far more than a new pair of shoes. You are giving her new friends and new challenges and so many lessons and some of her best memories.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a team. You are giving her a group of girls that she might not have ever talked to if it wasn’t for these common cleats. A group of girls who will teach her how to be a teammate. A group of girls who will laugh with her and yell at her and train with her and win with her and lose with her. With a pair of cleats comes a group of mismatched people with a common goal who are learning from each other and working together.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a coach. This coach is going to play an instrumental role in her love or hate for the sport. This coach will work her hard. This coach will train her and teach her and encourage her and yell at her and make her cry and hug her and cheer her on. This coach wants to see her succeed. This coach knows what these cleats mean, what this sport means. And this coach will be someone that she will watch. She will watch the way that her coach talks to her and talks to her teammates and talks to the other team and she will see her coach’s responses to games that are won and games that are lost. This pair of cleats comes with a role model, for better or for worse.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her team practices. You are giving her practice that will instill discipline and dedication and commitment. You are teaching her that she is on a team and she is expected to put in time. You are teaching her that her presence is important and that people are relying on her. You are teaching her how to balance her time, because, now, she has school and practice and games and teammates and friends and family. And for the first time in her life, she has to establish priorities. With this practice time comes some of the hardest conditioning and training. With this practice time comes some of her favorite memories as she bonds with her teammates and laughs with them and works hard with them. This pair of cleats comes with quite the time commitment.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her game days. You are giving her bus rides and warm up playlists and team matching hair ribbons and orange slices at half-time and constantly looking for your water bottle on the sidelines. You are giving her a competitiveness that can only come out on the field. You are giving her the cheers from the sidelines and the screams of her coach and the exhaustion in her legs at the end of the game. You are giving her handshakes with opponents and a winning attitude even when she loses. With a pair of cleats comes pasta dinners and game days; These will become her favorite days.

SEE ALSO: My First Semester As A College Athlete

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a challenge. She is going to grow and learn, and she’s going to want to quit at times, but she is going to look down at her feet and remember why she’s doing this. She’s going to remember her teammates and her coaches and the amount of time she’s poured into this sport, and she’s going to realize that it’s worth it. She’s going to be covered in bruises and her socks are going to stink, and she’s always going to be looking for a sock or needing a hair elastic. She’s going to be tired, and she’s going to get hurt. But those cleats are going to establish lessons that she’s going to remember for the rest of her life, friends that she is going to learn to love, and discipline that she is going to be thankful for. If you’re the girl with the cleats, soak it in. Love the long practices and the exhaustion and the sound of the whistle that starts the game. If you’re the girl without the cleats, go get some. Try something new. Take the risk. Sign up for the team, the musical, the club. You will regret it if you don’t. Even if you fail, few things can teach you the lessons that those cleats will.

Sincerely,

The Girl Who Hung Up Her Cleats

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Cook

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Lebron To The Celtics? Thanks, But I'll Pass (Literally)

The Celtics don't need him, so why entertain the rumors.

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The NBA season came to an anticlimactic ending with the Golden State Warriors sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers to collect their third NBA title in the last four years. The story around the NBA (and will surely be the nonstop story on ESPN until there is an answer) is where will Lebron James go in free agency.

Lebron holds all the cards here. He could go to Houston or Oklahoma City, who have a chance to down the Warriors with just one more superstar. He could go somewhere with young talent that needs a legend to lead them, like Philadelphia or LA. He could give it one last go around with the hometown Cavaliers, or he could even take a year off. He has plenty of money and nothing left to prove.

One rumor that has been swirling, the one that brings intrigue to the NBA landscape, is that the King opts out of his contract and takes his talents to Boston and pushes the Celtics over the top. On the surface, it does offer a good story: reunite Lebron and Kyrie Irving (even if Kyrie doesn't want it) and see the Celtics duke it out with the Warriors when it is questionable whether or not it is necessary to do that.

I'm sorry, but the Celtics should not go after Lebron. He is a great player, but the Celtics don't need him.

Let's take a look at how a Lebron to Boston deal would work. Let's go with the assumption that Lebron does opt into the final year of his contract with Cleveland. That carries a base of 35 million dollars for the season. The Cavs could trade him to the Celtics after that, but it would require the Celtics giving up either Kyrie, Gordon Hayward, or Al Horford along with another expiring contract (Terry Rozier or Marcus Morris, two players that held their own during the playoff push) AND at least one first-round pick in the upcoming drafts.

Horford is getting up there in age, and Kyrie is only under contract for one more year. That leaves Hayward as the most likely piece for the Cavaliers to get back in a trade involving Lebron.

This is a bad move for Boston to make for a couple reasons.

Hayward (28) is much younger than Lebron (34). His body is in a much better position to withstand the grind of the 82 game season now that he has had a year to rest and get stronger (albeit due to a gruesome injury). Lebron can train all he wants, but the fact of the matter is that his age and style of play are eventually going to catch up to him. Do the Celtics really want to experience that firsthand?

Second, Hayward already has a rapport with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens from when the two were at Butler back in 2010. Stevens has done a great job with this team since taking over for Doc Rivers in 2013. Lebron has a tendency to have head coaches fired, so what would happen if the C's let Stevens go?

More about Lebron, he would want to call the shots. When the Celtics traded for Kyrie in the first place, they gave up Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a first-round pick that ends up being the 8th overall pick in this year's draft. Only that pick remains because Lebron wanted both of them out of town.

Is Danny Ainge ready and willing to deal with a headache that Lebron meddling in front-office affairs would bring?

A healthy Kyrie, a healthy Hayward, and more experience for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are all the Celtics really need. They played great defense all year, and their offense can only get better now that their playmakers are coming back better than ever.

I honestly do hope that Lebron makes a decision soon and doesn't turn this into a circus-like he did when he left Cleveland the first time for Miami. I just hope that his decision doesn't lead him to Boston. But it is still early in the offseason, and Lebron hasn't even made his decision on staying or leaving, so let's cool it with the "Where in the world will Lebron James go next season?" chatter. Bonus points if you said that as if you were singing the theme song to "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

Cover Image Credit:

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