The scores of rank, racist tweets that rained down on the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward after he scored the winning overtime goal against the Bruins on Wednesday are deeply offensive, missives no professional athlete should have to contend with in this day and age. The emergence of social media has shined a spotlight on hidden corners of public opinion where decorum is as foreign a concept as civility. This may represent only a tiny, ugly fringe of Bruins fans, but it’s an embarrassment to the team and the city, nonetheless.
Rather than minimize the Twitter attack on one of the National Hockey League’s few black players, the league, the team, and the city of Boston should use the occasion to re-establish their conviction that racism has no place in sports, civic life, or, for that matter, social media: It’s a stain, a taint, which is made all the more offensive by the fact that it doesn’t remotely reflect the views of most Bostonians.
But a gut check is never an entirely bad thing. Hockey tends to be more popular in northern areas with fewer nonwhite players and fans; that should make it all the more incumbent on the NHL and its fans to be welcoming of a more diverse player base and fandom. In last year’s Stanley Cup season, the Bruins reveled in the notion that their fans came from plainer, more down-to-earth precincts than those of football or baseball boosters. Now the team should make clear that tolerance is a simple virtue, as well.
Neither the Bruins, the league, nor the city of Boston have anything to apologize for; but a bracing reaffirmation of core values is never out of season.