Nashville Predators, NHL release statements about #BlackLivesMatter protests in USA

The statements are more than I’d expected but less than I’d hoped.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of On the Forecheck or SBNation.

On Sunday, the NHL and several NHL teams, including the Nashville Predators, released statements about the ongoing protests across the USA and internationally.

These protests began to seek justice for George Floyd, a Black man murdered by police on Memorial Day, but are also seeking reform for a “justice” system in which things like this happen much too often and without consequences. Over the course of the last few days, police officers in many cities have attacked protesters and journalists (more video compiled here—please be warned that this content is disturbing and includes graphic imagery of injuries).

The NHL’s statement, released Sunday night, says,

As protests in both the United States and Canada in recent days have focused attention upon racial justice for the Black community, the NHL stands with all those who are working to achieve a racially just society, and against all those who perpetuate and uphold racism, hatred, bigotry, and violence. We share the sentiments expressed by our players and Clubs in their calls for justice, and we encourage everyone to use their platforms and privilege for systemic change. In our own sport, we will continue to do better and work diligently toward culture change throughout hockey and endeavor to be mindful of our own shortcomings in this process.

It’s good to see the NHL taking an explicit stance that racism is bad, but this statement falls short in many ways. For the last few years, the NHL has talked a good game about diversity and not done much to back it up. “Hockey is for everyone” is a great aspirational statement but just isn’t accurate.

I don’t want to talk over the current issue, of racism and specifically anti-Black racism, with some of the NHL’s other failings. I will note that the NHL is an extremely white league, and that very, very few white players have spoken up at any of the times that racism has come to the surface, either in hockey or in wider society—and none of the NHL’s (white) superstars have done so. As the NHL says, these people have platforms and privilege.

The NHL itself, of course, also has a platform and privilege, and they have opted to use it to support the status quo, instead of the change they claim to want.

You cannot have Law Enforcement Night as a regular, league-wide event and also sincerely claim that you want systemic change about...racialized violence in law enforcement. The NHL’s statement about a series of protests about police brutality and which have been met with police brutality not at any point mentioning the words “police” or “law enforcement” is not a good look for them.

The Nashville Predators fell short in much the same way. Their statement, released Sunday afternoon, was as follows:

We are all hurting now.

Our building serves as a place of healing and unifying our community and that is needed once again.

The past few days and far too often there are examples of extreme racism that elicit strong emotions in every community.

We need to come together as a community, to have the conversations and take the steps necessary to stop racism in every form. We all need, expect, and demand equality and justice for all.

The peaceful protests that turn into violence show the pain, raw emotion, and anger surrounding this plague on our city and country.

We need to channel these passions, emotions, anger and frustration into solutions that allow us to peacefully create needed action that produces an outcome for a truly equitable society. We stand ready to engage, participate, and lead with others of all backgrounds and influence to identify solutions and move our community forward.

Everyone has a role to play in bringing about needed changes and we look forward to joining the conversations to affect positive change.

Let us all stand together.

Like the NHL, they do not address the cause of what’s happening.

It’s good that both the NHL and the Predators have blamed racism, without equivocation, for the events of the past few days. A few years back we might have only seen a statement about “racially-motivated actions”—as if failing to name racism will make it go away.

If the Predators organization and the NHL are sincere in their desire to work to end racism, they need to put their money where their mouth is.

I would love to see them donate to and partner with anti-racist organizations—one example of one they might choose to support is the Southern Poverty Law Center. They could also recognize Black Lives Matter during an event or game, the way they recognize many other community organizations. And if they’d like to honor first responders during a game, they could take a break from Law Enforcement Nights to have EMT Night or Firefighter Night instead.

That might make a lot of people angry. Racism is alive and well in the hockey community, and there will be people who refuse to buy tickets—maybe even who refuse to renew their season tickets. Their social media managers will have to read a lot of very ugly things.

But if the NHL—and the Predators—really want to work to stand against racism, they need to do more than tweet about it.