When the Washington Capitals beat Boston in a first-round series Wednesday night, some Bruins fans reacted with racist tweets.
The former incident resulted in about 170 injuries and $5 million in property damage. The latter incident’s toll can’t be calculated with body counts and hard numbers.
But the stream of vile and vulgar comments directed at Caps forward Joel Ward via Twitter — simply because he’s a black man and scored the game-winning goal - surely costs us something as a society.
There’s no way to read the offensive tweets — most of which can’t be repeated here or in polite company — without paying a price. You might lose some faith in your fellow man. You might lose the illusion of “post-racial” America. You might lose a piece of your mind or soul.
But unless you have a soft spot for white sheets and swastikas, you’re going to lose something.
For folks who want to see for themselves, several sites have a list of the uncensored, not-safe-for-work tweets, including CapitalsOutsider.com, SBNation.com and Chirpstory.com. If you can’t stomach a bunch of F-bombs, N-words and other assorted expletives, here are two of the tamer posts to give you a taste:
• “The only reason Joel ward is playing hockey is because he got cut from the basketball team in high school #gorilla”
• “Warning to Joel Ward. Your one of three black guys in Canada. I will find you … and I will kill you.”
Caps owner Ted Leonsis was absolutely right Thursday in assessing the nastiness, calling it “Keyboard courage and ignorance” on his blog. “What these people have said and done is unforgivable,” he wrote. “I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs. There should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate mongering.”
Many of the offending accounts had been deleted by Thursday afternoon, the cowards fleeing in the face of backlash. They certainly didn’t expect their vitriol to be picked up and rebroadcast by media outlets. It’s disturbing that they felt comfortable enough to make such comments at all, but it also make me wonder about the target audience, their friends and followers.
I can understand Bruins fans disappointment after Ward’s goal. It was a heartbreaking moment for them, capping an exasperating series and ushering the Stanley Cup champions into vacation mode. Caps fans are all-too-familiar with the feeling. But the color of Ward’s skin is as irrelevant as the color of his car; neither played a role in him beating goalie Tim Thomas (who could make a decent argument that Mike Knuble was guilty of interference).
Ward stands out as one of roughly two dozen black NHL players. Another is Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who saw a banana peel hit the ice during an exhibition game in September. “When you’re a black man playing in a predominantly white man’s sport, you’ve got to come to expect things like that,” Simmonds told reporters afterward.
Expecting it and accepting it are two different things. Ward might have faced similar slurs Thursday if he was of Asian or Latino descent, but we shouldn’t shrug it off just because he must.