Hockey Diversity Alliance

Matt Dumba on kneeling for U.S. anthem, speaking out against racism

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Matt Dumba stood at center ice before Game 1 of Blackhawks-Oilers and delivered a passionate speech about social justice and fighting racism that concluded with the following message:

“I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans. Because Black Lives Matter. Breonna Taylor’s life matters. Hockey is a great game. But it could be a whole lot greater. And it starts with all of us.”

Moments before, nerves were getting to him as he waited inside Edmonton’s Rogers Place.. This was a huge moment for him and the NHL. Luckily for the Wild defenseman, teammates Jonas Brodin and Alex Galchenyuk were there to calm him down.

“If you’ve got the nerves to handle this, nothing can stop you tomorrow or in this playoff run,” Galchenyuk told him.

The 26-year-old Dumba then took a breath and recited the speech he’d memorized and practiced all week. He then became the first NHL player to take a knee during the U.S. national anthem. Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse and Blackhawks goalie Malcolm Subban stood with him with a hand placed on each shoulder.

“All the strength that it took to do it, it came from all the people who have supported me along the way,” Dumba said Sunday morning ahead of Game 1 against the Canucks. “My family, got to thank them, and especially the members at the [Hockey Diversity Alliance]. Hearing those guys’ stories and everything we talk about has given me the courage to do the things that I’ve done.”

The only thing Dumba said he would change is he would kneel for the Canadian national anthem as well.

“To be honest, I kind of froze up,” said Dumba, who is on the executive committee of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. “I know why I knelt. It wasn’t a sign of disrespect by any means. It was to shed light on the people who have lived through the injustice and oppression, especially in my home state of Minnesota. That’s why I did it. I think my biggest regret is not doing it for the Canadian national anthem, as well, because there is a lot of light that needs to be shed on what is happening in Canada and the oppression First Nations people have felt for hundreds of years. I was disappointed looking back on it because, like I said, I knew the reasons why I knelt. Just in the moment it happened like that.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Going forward, Dumba said, he will raise his fist when both anthems are played. The decision was made after speaking with J.T. Brown, who raised his fist three years ago before a game while with the Lightning.

“If I’m not in the starting lineup, I might be on the bench and if I take a knee on the bench, they might not even be able to see me,” Dumba said.

A message to the haters

There were plenty of positive and negative responses to Dumba’s speech and kneeling during the U.S. anthem. But those dismissing what he and the HDA are fighting for help him want to continue to deliver the message.

“Keep it coming,” said Dumba, the Wild’s 2020 King Clancy Trophy nominee. “It kind of sheds a light on them and the people that follow them. Their friends, their family, can see their beliefs and how they view the world and see the negative light that they’re trying to shed on this. For all the people who have the courage in their fingertips sitting behind a keyboard, I know half the stuff you wouldn’t say to my face if I was standing right in front of you.

“All that stuff is what it is. I’ve kind of been laughing at it because I know the people that mean the most to me, all those people have reached out to me and commended me for what I’ve done, and believe in me and support that.”

MORE:
Dumba on Hockey Diversity Alliance, getting advice from Kaepernick
Wild, NHL donate $100,000 to Matt Dumba’s ‘Rebuild Minnesota’ initiative

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Matt Dumba gives emotional speech against racism before Blackhawks – Oilers

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The NHL shared a presentation against racism before Game 1 of Blackhawks – Oilers. That video wasn’t the highlight though. Instead, Wild defenseman Matt Dumba provided the most powerful moment with a heartfelt speech calling for more action against racism — in hockey and beyond.

Dumba shared his emotional perspective as a key member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance.

“Hockey is a great game, but it can be a whole lot greater … and it starts with all of us,” Dumba said as part of his powerful speech.

Following his speech, Matt Dumba kneeled during the U.S. national anthem while Blackhawks goalie Malcolm Subban and Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse put their hands on Dumba’s shoulders.

Credit Dumba for showing incredible courage. He made that speech by himself, on a national scale.

Akim Aliu and Evander Kane serve as the co-founders of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, with Dumba, Trevor Daley, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward serving as members of the executive committee. The Hockey Diversity Alliance formed in June, stating their goal is “to eradicate racism and intolerance” in hockey.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Here is Dumba’s full speech:

“I’d like to say thank you to all the fans watching at home, and all the people making a positive difference in the world right now. We appreciate you. I know none of us have to be reminded right now about how our day to day lives have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. So I hope this Stanley Cup Playoffs can bring a little normality and peace of mind to these times of uncertainty.

“I’ll transition to a topic that’s very important to me, my fellow members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance and the NHL. During this pandemic, something unexpected but long overdue occurred. The world woke up to the existence of systematic racism and how deeply rooted it is in our society. For those unaffected by systematic racism or are unaware, I’m sure some of you believe that this topic has garnered too much attention these last couple of months. But let me assure you that it has not. Racism is a manmade creation. All it does is deteriorate from our collective prosperity. Racism is everywhere and we need to fight against it.

“On behalf of the NHL and the Hockey Diversity Alliance, we vow and promise to stand up for justice and fight for what is right. I know first-hand, as a minority playing the great game of hockey, the unexplainable and difficult challenges that come with it. The Hockey Diversity Alliance and the NHL want kids to feel safe, comfortable and free-minded every time they enter the arena.

“So I stand in front of you today, on behalf of those groups, and promise you that we will fight against injustice and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans. Because Black Lives Matter. Breonna Taylor’s life matters. Hockey is a great game. But it could be a whole lot greater. And it starts with all of us.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

CCM Hockey joins Akim Aliu to promote inclusion, diversity

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MONTREAL — CCM Hockey is partnering with former NHL player Akim Aliu to promote diversity and inclusion, while making it easier for disadvantaged children enter the sport.

The Montreal-based hockey equipment and apparel maker on Tuesday announced it reached an endorsement agreement with Aliu, who is co-chairman of the newly formed Hockey Diversity Alliance and founder of the Time to Dream Foundation.

Aliu came to prominence as a voice against racism and intolerance in hockey in November when revealing Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters directed racial slurs at him while the two were in the minors a decade earlier. Peters resigned days later, and Aliu’s comments led to the NHL strengthening its personal conduct policies regarding racism and bullying.

CCM will make a financial contribution and donate 750 of what it calls ”starter kits,” which will include necessary equipment for children to play hockey. Aliu will be involved as a mentor and coach.

”The sport of hockey is a mindset, not a demographic,” CCM CEO Rick Blackshaw said in a statement. ”Hockey is an attitude, not an age. Hockey is a leader, not a gender or race.”

Said Aliu: ”I’m grateful for their commitment to bring about true and meaningful change that the game of hockey and society desperately need.”

Ryan Reaves drops feud with Evander Kane to focus on ‘much bigger cause’

As one of the most fearsome fighters in the NHL, Ryan Reaves is no stranger to conflict. Yet, in recent times, he’s putting aside one conflict (his feud with Evander Kane) while dealing with a more complicated “internal” conflict (supporting protests following George Floyd’s death, while grappling with his family’s background in law enforcement).

Reaves’ background really is pretty mind-blowing, and practically demands his nickname become “The Lone Reaver.”

Let’s unpack the backgrounding of the Reaves – Kane beef, but then get into that “internal conflict.”

Reaves puts aside conflict with Kane

Reaves told Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he contacted Kane following Kane co-heading the Hockey Diversity Alliance. If their feud didn’t already seem petty, it certainly looks that way in comparison to what is going on in the U.S. and around the world.

“I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves said. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

To review, the Kane – Reaves beef goes back. In fact, it goes back longer than I personally remembered.

Back in February 2017, then-Sabres forward Kane might have snuck an elbow on then-Blues enforcer Reaves.

Things really ratcheted up as the two took part in a brewing rivalry between the Sharks and the Golden Knights. The two traded trash talk and fought during that memorable 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Despite quite a bout, Reaves told reporters that he didn’t really gain respect for Kane. (Kane, meanwhile, insulted Reaves’ perceived lack of hockey skills.)

While a fight didn’t do the trick — and, sometimes a bout really does build rapport (just ask Michael Jordan and … Steve Kerr?) — Reaves is paying Kane some respect now.

And, yet, Reaves’ conflict brews in a different way.

The conflict for Reaves includes an incredible family legacy

Graney’s column on Reaves is definitely worth a read, though some will understandably cringe at seeing “both sides” in the headline. But it turns out that Reaves seeing both sides is valid, and also a route to understand how extraordinary Reaves’ story really is.

To start, Ryan Reaves’ father Willard was a sergeant in Winnipeg following a CFL and brief NFL career. Willard provided some fascinating insight on the differing forces pulling at Ryan Reaves.

“(Law enforcement) in our family dates a long, long ways back,” Willard Reaves said to Graney. “We have several who chose this as (a profession). Because of this, Ryan can see all of this from both sides. He’s mixed race (his mother Brenda is Caucasian). He can analyze and internalize from either point. He will come to his conclusions. He will deal with the facts and what he sees and hears.

“And there is internal conflict.”

As it turns out, Willard wasn’t kidding about the family’s roots going a long ways back in law enforcement. Ryan Reaves is apparently the great-great-grandson of Bass Reeves, aka the possible inspiration for “The Lone Ranger.”

Reaves’ great-great grandfather: Bass Reeves, possible “Lone Ranger” inspiration

Ryan Reeves great-great grandson of Bass Reeves Lone Ranger
via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Whether Bass Reeves was the inspiration for “The Lone Ranger” or not, he was a figure of such stature to earn his own statue. This AP article by John Lovett touches on the high points of a life that was against-all-odds:

Born into slavery in Crawford County; escaped servitude during the Civil War; possibly fought for the Union with the Keetoowah Cherokees; survived dozens of gunfights riding for Judge Isaac C. Parker as one of the first black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi; acquitted of murder for the death of his cook; arrested his son, Benjamin, for shooting his wife, Castella, in a jealous rage. These are just a few of the incredible stories of a man who hunted down men nobody else could capture.

A life like this lends itself to Paul Bunyan-style tall tales. Also via Lovett:

Reeves was also known to love racing his sorrell horse, and would go to extremes to serve writs. Once, he walked 28 miles dressed as a beggar and fooled two men and their mother into letting him stay the night. The men with a $5,000 bounty on their heads woke up in handcuffs.

All things considered, it’s understandable that Reaves told Graney “I do kind of toe both lines” between understanding the perspectives of protesters and police. Considering that Reaves wants to align with (former?) foe Kane, it sounds like he’s ultimately invested in doing the right thing.

In other Reaves news …

The Golden Knights signed Reaves to a two-year contract extension. It’s worth $1.75M per year.

More current and former NHL players speak up about racism:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Anson Carter shares profound thoughts on racism in hockey

As Blake Bolden said, Anson Carter created a “mic drop” moment during the latest “Our Line Starts” podcast (also with Jamal Mayers and Liam McHugh).

Carter spoke of a white friend who owns a New York hotel telling him that she’s become “exhausted” about having conversations about race relations. For her, a few days of such conversations left her mentally drained.

“I said, ‘Try having these conversations for 46 years,'” Carter said. “It’s like running a marathon. Training for a marathon, the first time you go out there, you’re exhausted. But, once you start building up that endurance every single day, it becomes a little bit easier. And that is what this is all about.”

Carter continued with a profound point. Many of us have the luxury to “stick to sports” and divest of these conversations when the marathon proves too grueling. Anson Carter does not.

” .. I don’t have that same ability to take the skin off my shoulders like shoulder pads and hang it up and say ‘OK, onto the next thing, I’ll go live my life now,'” Carter said. “This is my reality. And, when you think about it that way, people start to get exactly what everyone’s talking about.”

Wow. You can witness Carter’s “mic drop” moment in the video above this post’s headline, but the full episode is worth your time (and at the bottom of this post).

Anson Carter also appeared on “Lunch Talk Live”

Anson Carter brought some optimism about the future to his “Lunch Talk Live” appearance with Mike Tirico.

He notes that, during his playing days, it felt like “no one was listening.” Tirico and Carter also spoke about “In Union, There’s Strength,” the video Carter put together responding to George Floyd’s death.

“Just because we’re social distancing, doesn’t mean the hockey community is socially distant,” Carter said.

Full episode of Our Line Starts

2:40-5:35 Anson’s inspiration for producing his powerful video
5:35-8:50 Jamal, Blake, and Anson discuss their new role with the NHL
8:50-12:55 How can NHL players make a difference beyond offering support on social media?
12:55-17:10 Ways to foster a more inclusive environment at the youth level
17:10-20:45 Examples of how diversity can lead to positive change in the sport
20:50-24:30 Importance of making people feel comfortable to speak up
24:30-End Anson’s passionate closing remarks

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.