This article is an opinion piece anonymously submitted by an independent contributor, and may not necessarily reflect the views shared by us here at YGA. We respect all opinions, so we provide an open platform for any and all high schoolers to share their views. If you would like to contribute an opinion piece, don’t hesitate to send us an email via this link.
There has been more civil unrest in the United States in the last few months than in all of the last decade. After the death of George Floyd, millions of Americans began to ask questions surrounding racial justice, and as the push for racial equality has increased, its influence has also begun to touch the sports industry.
During the NBA and MLB postseason, entire teams have knelt on live television to protest racial injustice. While there is no doubt that injustice exists in the United States, many miss the days when one could turn on the TV and just watch sports. When people make time in their day to watch baseball, basketball, or football, they are watching for the sake of entertainment, and for a brief respite from the turmoil of the real world. When players kneel, however, they force their beliefs onto people who want to watch their favorite team play.
However, some sports have remained mostly nonpartisan. The National Hockey League(NHL), for example, has largely not taken part in these kneeling protests. Amidst heightened racial and social tensions in the country, many NHL players have spoken out against injustice, yet they have chosen not to kneel before games. One exception is an African American defenceman for the Minnesota Wilds named Matt Dumba. Because he was passionate about protesting during the national anthem, the NHL allowed Dumba to do so at one of the first NHL playoffs games despite not making the playoffs. Yet, when Dumba asked if other NHL players wanted to protest with him, the response was an overwhelming no. This doesn’t mean that these hockey players have no heart, nor does it mean that they are racist–it simply means that NHL players want to keep the games about what they were always meant to be: the love of the game.
Many hockey teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs have publicly supported Dumba’s message and publicly supported racial justice. When asked about kneeling during the National Anthem, Morgan Reilly, the alternate-captain of the Maple Leafs, said, “We’ve definitely talked about it. And I think that as a group, we agree with what [Dumba] had to say in terms of taking action. [But] I think that can take different forms.” Many NHL players have strong feelings against any form of injustice, as suggested through Reilly’s statement, but they do not want to mix their activist lives with their lives as athletes. What this does for hockey fans is really important; it allows them to simply turn on the TV and watch their desired sport, regardless of their differing political beliefs or opinions.
Especially today, with twenty million Americans not knowing if their stimulus checks will arrive, with millions more without power after a devastating storm, and with the presidential election polarizing the United States, it is nice to be able to escape and just watch hockey,a sport in which everyone is binded by the love of a game. And in the end, isn’t that what sports are about?