It’s laudable for the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association to protest acts of violence against Black people, but the league and players should also speak out against racism faced by Indigenous people, says Terry Teegee, Regional Chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations.
The police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake sparked protests across North America and around the world. Last month the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to postpone two days worth of Stanley Cup playoff games as a response to Blake’s shooting and the wider issues surrounding systemic racism, social injustice and police brutality.
“When this whole movement started with the killing of George Floyd and a number of Black folks in the United States, there was a real groundswell,” Teegee said. “It’s sad. There were very similar issues that happened [in Canada], such as the death of Colton Boushie, or other Indigenous people, [and] the only ones that really came out [to protest] were Indigenous people.
“I think it would have been very good if the general public came out and supported some of the causes that we’re trying to raise to a higher level, because it’s happening here.”
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Boushie, a 22-year-old from the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation, was fatally shot on a rural Saskatchewan farm. Gerald Stanley, the farmer who shot him, was acquitted of second-degree murder and a lesser charge of manslaughter.
When the NHL playoff games were postponed, many of the comments reflected issues faced by Black players.
Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights said most hockey players “have never lived through some of the stuff Black athletes have.”
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Kim Davis, the NHL’s senior executive vice-president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, said members of the Indigenous community will be included in any of the league’s actions to counter racism.
“The resurgence of a global social justice movement occurred due to police brutality against the Black community in the United States [but] discrimination, racism and inequalities are not limited to this country or any one race,” Davis said in an email.
There has been at least 85 NHL players who were Indigenous or had Indigenous ancestry, said Davis.
“We believe authentically connecting and engaging with Indigenous communities… is a key area for our growth and, frankly, a strategic responsibility for the sport moving forward,” she said.
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Teegee said having sports organizations be more inclusive and better understand Indigenous people were among the calls for action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“I really believe that would alleviate some of the issues of not just participating [in sports] but also in the higher levels such as coaching and administration,” he said.
When the football teams in Edmonton and Washington decided to change their names because of racist connotations, there were some calls for the NHL’s Chicago team to follow suit.
Teegee said inappropriate team names must be dropped.
“If it’s perpetuating stereotypes and hateful views of Indigenous people, they need to change,” he said.