There was recently an article going around social media about Wayne Simmonds and how he helped a young African-American hockey player who was being bullied for his skin color. I read the article and it hit home for a multitude of reasons. Growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it’s pretty rural and almost entirely Caucasian. That isn’t meant to sound racist, just give you an idea, there was really no minority representation in my town, aside from a few of the college students and a handful of kids in the public school system.
Playing in a sport that’s dominated primarily by Caucasian individuals and playing, many times in towns that were primarily Caucasian, I can safely say I experienced my fair share of racism. The worst part about it, the part that probably hurts the most though, is the fact that if I played football or basketball, I probably wouldn’t have been subjected to the amount of words and hatred I experienced on the ice. As a matter of fact, on the soccer pitch I don’t think I ever heard a racist comment from any of my competitors.
The emotional struggle that encompasses having a deep passion and desire for something and then experiencing that type of deterrent and verbal abuse is difficult to even put into words. This isn’t just happening in the sport of hockey either. This isn’t just happening to minorities. This is happening in every sport, in every city, USA.To put it bluntly, if you’re white you should be playing hockey, baseball, golf, tennis, lacrosse. If you are black you’re relegated to football, basketball and maybe baseball. If you are Hispanic, society says you should play soccer and baseball. Asians should dominate ping pong, etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on.
This doesn’t even take into consideration the additional stereotypes that come along with athletes in each sport. That is a completely different blog post. So these stereotypes and even joking about them just lead to this issue growing deeper roots. I know this is an issue far greater than just on the baseball diamond, soccer pitch, football field, basketball court, or ice arena. This happens all over the world on many different levels.
So to get to the point of this post. Take a stance. Make a promise to yourself. Stop stereotyping athletes and what sport they belong in because of their ethnicity. If you see this occurring, even in a joking matter, abruptly stop the conversation and educate the people. We are all human beings and any human being should be able to foster and harbor a passion for a sport of their choice, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic background, etc.
If you take this stance and represent that to your peers, kids, and players, they will stop the stereotyping and hatred that comes along with it. What? You don’t think your (insert kid, player, peer here) listens to you when you talk about the ‘thugs’ in the NFL? You don’t think they hear that and wonder why the black, Hispanic, etc. kid is playing hockey? Stereotyping and racism is a learned behavior. Don’t forget that.