NHL: Matt Dumba, first player to kneel on ice during anthems


On Saturday in Edmonton, Matt Dumba, Canada’s defenseman from the Minnesota Wild, became the first NHL player to kneel on the ice during the American anthem. No player had displayed this symbol of the fight against racism during the preparation meetings, or during the resumption game of the season between Carolina and the New York Rangers in Toronto, a few hours earlier.

Dumba, who is of Filipino descent through his mother and European through his father, was not playing on Saturday. Member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, an association of players and former NHL players formed in June to « Eradicate racism and intolerance in the discipline », he was present to give a speech before the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Edmonton Oilers. It was the first game played in the Edmonton bubble, the first to be broadcast on US national television.

“During this pandemic, something unexpected, but necessary, happened: the world woke up and became aware of the existence of systemic racism, of the depth of its rootedness in society, he launched with passion. Racism is an artificial creation and only deteriorates our common good. « 

« Racism is everywhere, and we must fight it »

Matt Dumba, Minnesota defenseman

“Racism is everywhere, he continued. It is everywhere, and we must fight it. On behalf of the NHL and the Hockey Diversity Alliance, we pledge to stand up for justice and fight for what is right. I know from experience, as a member of a minority playing this wonderful sport of hockey, the formidable and difficult to explain challenges that this entails. We want children to feel safe, comfortable, and free-spirited every time they step into an ice rink. « 

All the players, gathered in a circle, tapped with their sticks on the ice in sign of approval. Matt Dumba then moved between Malcolm Subban, the Chicago goaltender, and Darnell Nurse, the Oilers defenseman, who are both Canadian and black. Like all the other players, these latter remained standing during the American anthem (like all the other players present), each with a hand on his shoulder, as he knelt. Dumba then stood up to hear the Canadian anthem.

Only 5% of NHL colored players

The NHL has a certain track record in terms of racism and remains a predominantly white League, on the ice as in its public. According to the latest statistics, it has only 5% of colored players. But it has evolved towards more openness and diversity, the decor of these play-offs testifies.

In the absence of the iconic slogan « Black Lives Matter », screens in Edmonton and Toronto broadcast the phrase « End Racism » and players have the right to put a sticker on their helmets or shirts with slogans that may concern diversity or the fight against racism. It is much less marked than in the NBA, but these are already strong gestures.

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