By now you’ve all seen the picture of Phoenix Coyotes LW Raffi Torres and wife Gianna dressed up for Halloween as Jay-Z and Beyonce. The photo was taken at a team party and shared publicly by Coyotes teammate Paul Bissonnette, whose nickname has reportedly gone from “BizNasty” to “BizEnoughWithTheBloodyCameraPhone.”
What started as a seemingly innocuous Twitpic has turned into a pretty massive controversy. Nearly every major media outlet is running with the story; the sheer volume of scrutiny forced the Coyotes organization to issue a public statement denouncing negative reaction to the costume.
(And in a perfect moment of irony, check out this screencap from the front page of the Coyotes website.)
Here are some of the more choice criticisms of Torres’s costume from around the interweb:
Sporting News: “Regardless of how big a Jay-Z fan Torres is, blackface is virtually taboo because of its use in the construction of damaging stereotypes; typically, a white performer would darken his or her face and portray racist characters. The practice was accepted throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Global TV: “When the Phoenix Coyotes sent out the invites to their annual Hallowe’en party, which took place Sunday night, one imagines they forgot to include a warning asking players not to dress in blackface.”
Bomani Jones: “Seriously, what’s the character here? He’s in a t-shirt and sneakers. The joke is the makeup. And that’s the problem.”
Chris Yuscavage, Complex.com: “White people dressing up in blackface for Halloween as their favorite rappers is always an uncomfortable thing. But it’s even more uncomfortable when professional athletes do it because, well, they’re professional athletes. They should know that them painting their faces black is going to cause some level of controversy. Yet, Raffi Torres of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes took it upon himself to do it anyway.”
Sportsgrid.com: “Predictably, many were up in arms, and Bissonnette responded to those criticisms by noting that Torres is actually a big fan of Jay-Z. We don’t doubt he is. But that’s the thing with blackface: there’s a history there, and no matter how benign intentions may be, it’s hard to see blackface and not think of…that. And yes, there have been instances of blackface in popular culture actually working, but there’s a difference between a movie where the blackface can actually be used as part of a larger point, and…some guy’s costume.”
The only thing saving Torres right now is the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries divorce. He was one of Twitter’s top trending terms until those two ended their seemingly unbreakable union, forcing the Internet to redirect its collective vitriol.