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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

If NHL Wants to Fight Racism, It Can Start With How It Treats Ryan Reaves

Vegas right-winger Ryan Reaves hit Dallas’ Esa Lindell (r.) and had a racial slur hurled at him by an unknown Star.
Vegas right-winger Ryan Reaves hit Dallas’ Esa Lindell (r.) and had a racial slur hurled at him by an unknown Star.
Photo: Getty

The Vegas Golden Knights were eliminated in overtime by the Dallas Stars on Monday night, 3-2, and an ugly racial incident on the ice appears to have gone mostly unnoticed and unreported.


In the first period, Vegas forward Ryan Reaves hit Dallas’ Esa Lindell, knocking him into Reaves’ teammate William Carrier. A Dallas player can be heard saying, “Keep picking your own players, you ugly mutt.”

Reaves has a Black father and white mother, so there’s no question that calling him “a mutt,” is indeed a racial insult. What isn’t known is who said the slur.


There was some confusion over whether or not he was called an “ugly butt” or “ugly mutt,” but it was confirmed by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and The Athletic’s Thomas Drance that it was indeed “mutt.” It was originally reported that the comment was directed at Vegas’ William Carrier, but Carrier was neither responsible for the hit, nor is he racially mixed, so it’s unlikely he was the target of the insult.

Peter Hassett of the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks is one of the few who reported on the incident last night, writing:

Not three weeks ago, Reaves personally addressed the continued role of racism in hockey and how it can be counted through solidarity from white players.

“Last night I struggled with what I wanted to do,” Reaves said. “Whether it was, ‘Am I really going to walk out on my team and be the only guy (to protest)? Or Is it going to be a couple of guys?’ But I woke up to a text from Kevin Shattenkirk and he had a bunch of guys out East there. They wanted to talk. Then I got a text that Vancouver wanted to talk. That, I think, was more powerful – the conversation started by white players on other teams wanting to talk. I think that’s the most powerful thing that happened today.”

And today, September 14, 2020, the most visible black player in the NHL was called a racist slur by another player.


The NHL tried to make a good show out of putting up a united front for fighting racism, with Reaves at the forefront. Every Black player in the NHL has had to deal with blatant racism, from Wayne Simmonds having a banana thrown at him in London, Ontario, to Chicago ’Hawks fans taunting Devante Smith-Pelly.

But this ugly incident, like the abuse suffered by Akim Aliu, proves that players don’t just suffer racist taunts from fans, but by players and coaches. It’s endemic to the culture of the sport.


Yes, it must be said: Reaves is a physical, tough player who crosses into the area of borderline play, and he can take care of himself. He can certainly tune up whoever it is on the Stars who insulted him. But he shouldn’t have to do that.

But three weeks ago, NHL players said they had Reaves’ back. This proves that hockey still has a long way to go toward making a real change within its sport, let alone the outside world.

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

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