How an NHL street party caused a social media storm about racism

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A local Winnipeg Jets tradition – the Whiteout Street Party – has been the source of controversy. Is it political correctness run amok or is the name insensitive to racialized people? THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

LAs the city of Winnipeg was preparing to host a large celebration to mark the beginning of the National Hockey League playoffs for its team, the Jets, a storm broke out over social media over a headline about the hockey street party.

A story that described the preparations for the outdoor public celebration during the playoff game in the Winnipeg Free Press included this headline: “Jets parties will turn downtown white again.” The original story ran with a photo of four men wearing all-white, hooded costumes. Both the headline and photo were later changed.

Soon after, Black Space Winnipeg, an anti-racism advocacy group, tweeted a response to the article and posted a comment on its Facebook page. The group implied the words “white again,” along with the photo, would make racialized people feel unwelcome in the city. The group also suggested in a Facebook post the name of the playoff party (“Whiteout”) be changed.

“Have a look at these photos from past Jets pandemonium/fan appreciation. The four men wearing all white Jets outfits with pointed hoodies … remind you of anything?”

On Twitter the group wrote:

“This headline can carry a very different meaning depending on who’s reading it …”

Many people reading the tweet from Black Space Winnipeg did not take the time to think about the original headline of the article before they hurled back angry, misinformed or racist replies.

Some examples: “Go back to playing basketball and leave hockey alone” and “its (sic) ok to be white,” a slogan made popular by white supremacist groups.

I believe the angry tweets and Facebook comments can be classified into two main complaints: many people felt the term “whiteout” was never intended to be racist and that making that claim is political correctness run amok.

Winnipeg Jets’ fans get warmed up at the Whiteout Street Party prior to the second NHL playoff game against the St. Louis Blues on April 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Words and traditions change because our world is not static. We shouldn’t be afraid to institute change as we become aware of errors made in the past. Decisions made 30 or even 100 years ago have been challenged and changed. Sports have also changed. McGill University recently dropped the name of its sports teams, the Redmen, because as McGill University’s principal said, it is “widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Indigenous peoples, as evidenced by major English dictionaries…we cannot ignore this contemporary understanding.”

She said the name “is not one the university would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward.”

Winnipeg pride

Last year, the Jets won their first playoff series since the team returned to Winnipeg in 2011, making it all the way to the conference finals. This was a big event for the city. The parties attracted thousands of people to downtown Winnipeg. The crowds were loud and boisterous, but according to media reports, the atmosphere was friendly and a good example of the city’s community spirit in action.

For many Winnipegers, it was a positive image that helped to negate the often stereotypical images many Canadians have about their city as boring, cold as Mars (or hot and full of mosquitoes in summer), or one of Canada’s most violent communities.

“The whiteout” is a nickname for Jets street parties originated three decades ago. According to the CBC, the parties started as a response to the Calgary Flames’ “Sea of Red” during the 1987 playoffs. That was at a time when the Jets home colours were white, not blue as they now are, but the tradition has stuck. Although the Jets left Winnipeg in 1996, the “whiteout” resumed after the team’s return to the city in 2011.

Winnipeg is one of many NHL cities where fans uniformly dress in their team colours during the playoffs. Here, white-clad Winnipeg Jets’ fans react towards St. Louis Blues centre Robert Thomas during NHL playoff action in Winnipeg on April 10. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

On the surface, the term “whiteout” seems fairly benign and aptly describes the scene. Photos of the event confirm that it is indeed a sea of white. It looks like a blizzard, a phenomenon that naturally occurs in Manitoba winters.

It’s the second explanation — political correctness run amok — that is the most worrisome.

Concerns dismissed

Many fans dismissed the concerns of Black Space Winnipeg and others, rather than considering why the headline might have been offensive.

I read some of the over 450 replies on Facebook and over 400 replies on Twitter. Many of the responses gave nonsensical responses that showed how little the reader understood the issue and how little they valued the conversation on racism in their city centre.

To demonstrate how ridiculous they thought the issue was, a few posters submitted ideas like having a white refrigerator makes them a racist.

But the headline, along with the photo of men in white hoods, can be interpreted as “only whites are welcome” message. The intention of the message may be innocent, but the way it is understood by the people will depend on their social location.

In a city where racism often rears its ugly head, it is understandable that the seemingly innocuous headline can be understood to be threatening — especially by people who experience discrimination.

Black Space Winnipeg and other social activist organizations are asking Canadians to have conversations about race and to think about how we use language and how the way we label things and visualize them can unintentionally include and exclude groups of people.

Our current social climate in Canada, and in Winnipeg, has given space to more explicit expressions of racism, and therefore we — and our media outlets — need to think about the ways we use language and how that language may perpetuate bias.

Lori Wilkinson, Professor of Sociology, University of Manitoba

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tiger Woods Wins the 2019 Masters: Reaction to one of the Greatest Comebacks in Sport

The most thrilling comeback in American sports history. Tiger Woods, at the age of 43, has won the 2019 Masters at Augusta for the first time since 2005.

The Augusta National Golf Club is where Tiger Woods, 22 years ago, first burst into the sports world, like no one we had seen before: golf’s first black superstar, a player who everyone figured would rewrite his sport’s record book. He won by a dozen strokes that day in 1997, as a 21-year-old, and that was just the beginning. By the time he was 32, Woods had won 14 major championships, even taking four in a row. He gave a fans a reason to stay in on Sundays, and watch men walk on grass and swing at a little white ball.

Fast forward to the making of an epic win, Woods and one of his playing partners in the final group, Francesco Molinari, would go shot for shot down the stretch. But on the 15th hole Molinari, last year’s British Open champion, hit a shot in the water, essentially knocking him out of the tournament. Woods stuck his tee shot on 16, giving him another birdie and more breathing room. Brooks Koepka — winner of three majors since 2017, and playing in the group ahead of Woods — could have cut Woods’ lead to a single stroke on 18, but he missed a make-able birdie putt. All Woods needed was a bogey 5 on 18 to clinch it.

Tiger had been inching towards his moment. He contended in the last two majors, which enabled him to refresh his memory of how to win one: stay calm, keep on and let the other guys make mistakes.

When he tapped in the winning putt, for his 15th career major, Woods screamed and flipped his club. He hugged his son Charlie and daughter Sam, who was about to turn one. Woods grew hoarse from all his cheering, and rightfully so, he refused to hide his emotions.

“I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple years ago,” Woods explained. “I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything. This is just unreal, to be honest with you. This has meant so much to me and my family, this tournament, and to have everyone here, it’s something I’ll never, ever forget.”

Twenty-three time Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams joined in to congratulate Woods on his victory.

I am literally in tears watching @TigerWoods this is Greatness like no other. Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow Congrats a million times! I am so inspired thank you buddy.— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) April 14, 2019

Former LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant also sent his praise.

The victory is a major comeback for Woods who faced a series of setbacks in his personal and professional life. This inspiring win has shown the unique powers of redemption that sport offers to anybody willing to work hard enough for it.

Legalized Betting Could Change How We Watch Sports

1. The March Madness Betting Bonanza

With sports betting legal in eight states, NCAA tournament brackets are more than a hobby for fantasy league fun, bragging rights and office pools. NCAA officials are now renewing efforts to address how sports gambling may affect game integrity, as ESPN reports.

March is also Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The National Council on Problem Gambling, a nonprofit that advocates for programs for problem gamblers, notes that calls to their hotline increase by an average of 40 percent in March over previous months. Fans are expected to bet more than $10 billion on March Madness games, with 3 percent of wagers made legally through Nevada’s sports books.

But would legalizing sports betting dry up those office pools? Maybe not. The Daily Herald’s Burt Constable argued in a recent column that “it’s more fun losing money to a co-worker than to a giant gambling institution.”

2. Where Gambling Expansion Hangs in the Balance

In Illinois, Cubs and Sox fans may soon have something in common: placing a legal bet on the games. During an interview with WBEZ, the chief architect of the state’s sports gambling package shared some early makings of a bill, which could include a “lottery-based” ticket approach (i.e., anywhere that a retailer would sell lottery tickets, they could sell sports betting tickets), mobile betting and even an option at stadiums.

A finished proposal could be shared with Gov. J.B. Pritzker as early as May. And momentum for gambling expansion continues elsewhere. Legislators in West Virginia approved online casino gambling, and the bill awaits the governor’s signature. West Virginia is one of the two states that legalized video gamblingoutside of casinos without tracking the rate of gambling addiction. The other is Illinois.

But some states are reluctant to expand gambling. Lawmakers in Florida recently advanced legislation to ban online lottery sales. The bill could also mandate that lottery tickets and ads carry warnings about the risks of compulsive gambling.

A Minnesota legislative committee cleared a sports betting bill that even its chief sponsor doesn’t think will pass this time around, and reports note it won’t raise much money for the state. Arkansas’ State Racing Commission adopted rules that would block a casino in Pope County, about 80 miles northwest of Little Rock, KATV reported. The casino faced heavy opposition from residents.

3. Paying Attention to Problem Gambling

Iowa is already seen as a national leader in addressing issues around problem gambling, and officials there are preparing consumer protections if sports betting bills become law, WHO-TV reports. A vote is expected next month.

Meanwhile, the New York state comptroller’s office recently released the results of an auditthat found the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, or OASAS, has not assessed its gambling addiction services since 2006, even though the state allowed four new commercial casinos to open in 2013. OASAS officials say they don’t have enough money to conduct a social-impact study.

At St. Louis Public Radio, the multi-state news project “Fixed Odds” has examined how gambling addiction affects communities of color, along with state-by-state spending on prevention and treatment. Overall, studies estimate that roughly 2 percent of the general population experiences gambling addiction.

A few highlights, based on 2016 data:

  • Oklahoma: 134 casinos, $1 million in problem gambling spending ($0.25 per capita)
  • New York: 24 casinos, $2.9 million ($0.15 per capita)
  • Illinois: 10 casinos, $1 million ($0.08 per capita)
  • Wisconsin: 27 casinos, $396,000 ($0.07 per capita)
  • Missouri: 13 casinos, $258,000 ($0.04 per capita)

Hockey Over Hate

WATCH: A young black boy’s love for hockey proves to be greater than the racism that exists in the rink.

Divyne Apollon is a 13-year-old black boy with a passion for hockey — a sport he loves, but one that has exposed him to the ugliness of racism. During his latest encounter with intolerance, Divyne and his team came together to battle against hatred, while getting a surprise from Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

BY LONNAE O’NEALLOIS NAM April 5, 2019