This quote has stuck with me since I first heard it on January 14th, 2014. The comment, though simple, resonates because there is something inherently troublesome with the way that some black players in the NHL are talked about. There is also the uncomfortable way that hockey fans talk about the NBA and its athletes, the league's poster boy Lebron James being chief among them.
After reading and article written by Eyes on the Prize on the history of black players in the NHL, I began toying with different ideas, researching a paper on the Jim Crow racial caste system. While both the NBA and NFL openly talk about race in their and how it affects their athletes. Justin Rowan of both Arctic Ice Hockey and Fear the Sword talked about the issue of openly talking about race versus not mentioning it at all. Race is an issue in these leagues, but because it is openly addressed, it is not as glaring of an issue, which allows for more discussion on race issues.
Does the social construct of race affect black players in the NHL?
Evander Kane seems to be front and centre in this troublesome social construction of race beyond the categorization based on skin colour. Kane is very much like any other young professional athlete making money hand over fist. He makes some questionable decisions, but yet these questionable decisions are treated like they are the end of the world. They are not and they will most likely go away, just as they did with Tyler Seguin, now of the Dallas Stars.
I have already presented a case of the racism faced by many black NHLers, but there seems to be something more here; something that is caused not only by a players' attitude but also the attitude of a city's greater population.
Look no further than the new National Museum for Human Rights; the first of its kind to be built outside of Ottawa. It should be a point of pride for this city. And yet, there are those who cry that it's an eyesore; that it doesn't fit Winnipeg. But what exactly "fits" Winnipeg? We are a blue collar city that was founded as a fort through the Fur Trade. Winnipeg is a town that started the trend of General Strikes and fought for workers rights during the early 1900's.
Evander Kane does not fit the mould of a "Winnipeger". He is a remarkably talented player who could one day become a star. He's a kid who has the world at his fingertips.
His defect is that he does what is asked of him his own way, one which brings attention to his flair and unabashed style that is unique to hockey players. There is nothing wrong with having a distinctive haircut or shooting the puck a lot. In school kids are taught it is good to be one of a kind, unless you fancy to grow up a hockey player. For this, Kane has been a constant target from the moment he stepped foot in Winnipeg.
After brushing up on Kane's history with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL and talking to fans of the Atlanta Thrashers, there is nothing to prove that Kane's issues higher-ups have been more than exclusive Winnipeg. Did he change or did he join an organization that focused too much on pettiness of self image? Is this city too focused on hearsay and conjecture? We aren't talking about an alleged murderer or rapist here. It's not like he was slapped with a DUI and hid the charge from the team. The worst he has done is made some juvenile mistakes in judgement, something none of us can say we are exempt from.
Go back to the quote presented at the beginning of this article. Read it over a few times.
Is Evander Kane really what he is painted to by the media or is he a victim of social constructs colouring peoples perceptions?