In 1958, winger Willie O’Ree became the first African American athlete to play in the NHL. Which team was responsible for breaking the color barrier? The Boston Bruins.
The second and third black players in the NHL were Mike Marson and Bill Riley, both signed by the Washington Capitals.
More than half a century since O’Ree’s NHL debut, this week’s April 25 game between the Caps and Bruins has thrust racial issues into the spotlight again. After Washington’s Joel Ward clinched the winning goal against Boston, dozens of angry Tweets started appearing, using vile, derogatory, racist slurs — some also threatening violence.
I’m an African-American. I’m also an owner of the Caps. I was born during the era of segregation. And I’m sickened and discouraged to be reminded such ignorance and hatred persists. It’s been almost 50 Years since the March on Washington. It’s 2012, people! Have we learned nothing? Even one racially offensive Tweet is too many. There is no place for this in hockey, or anywhere.
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