The NHL announced its new plan to “combat racism” on Thursday, about a week after several players called out the league for its weak, “disappointing” response to the Jacob Blake shooting.
Among other things, the league and the players association will begin mandatory inclusion and diversity training and push a new campaign to encourage people to vote.
“We applaud NHL players for recognizing the importance of this moment and for coming together as part of a genuine movement for change,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement, in part. “We look forward to working with all voices of change to fight for equality and broaden access to the game we all love ... The initiatives we are announcing today are the result of that recommitment to making the NHL more inclusive and welcoming – and to using the privilege of our platform to fight racism.”
‘A step in the right direction’
The NHL and NHLPA announced they will work with the Hockey Diversity Alliance — a group formed earlier this year by several players of color in the league — to launch a hockey development program for BIPOC children in the Toronto area. They plan to launch a similar program in the United States in the future, too.
The league also formed an Executive Inclusion Council, which “will be committed to spearheading more inclusive thinking and more inclusive outcomes throughout the hockey ecosystem.”
The announcement, however, did not include “a zero-tolerance policy toward racial discrimination and abuse” — something that the HDA asked for in a pledge in July.
Several Black players, including Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, called out the league last month for its lack of a response after the Blake shooting.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back multiple times by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police as he tried to get into his car. He was left partially paralyzed. His shooting resulted in mass condemnation and protests, and led to most major sports leagues and many other prominent athletes staging a walkout.
The NHL held a brief “moment of reflection” before carrying on as normal.
“It’s great to write statements. It’s great to send tweets. It’s great to post stories and pictures on Instagram,” Kane said last month. “But at the end of the day it’s going to be about real action and meaningful change, and unfortunately that still isn’t occurring, and we need to be better.”
Though it wasn’t everything that was needed, Avalanche center and HDA member Nazem Kadri knows it’s progress.
"That's definitely a step in the right direction," Kadri said, via ESPN. "Being a part of the HDA, we tried to lay out certain policies and initiatives that affect the grassroots program and the whole education process. One of the first things we need to do is start educating the youth, the players, the staff. So it's certainly a step in the right direction."
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