Two young Black hockey players are calling out the sport for the racism they have endured from fellow players, as well as the league’s reluctance to rectify the problem. Two twin brothers Brandon and Landon Bernard were subjected to racist taunts from the opposing team at a Jan. 9 hockey game. The players of the 14-and-under team Ashburn Xtreme were recorded on video making monkey sounds every time one of the teens skated by. Now they are speaking out about their troubling experiences, and the lack of support they feel they have so far received from USA Hockey regrading the incident according to USA Today.
Another incident occurred at a March 6 game in Ashburn, Virginia when a Ashburn Xtreme player “skated up to Brandon and called him a ‘n—–.’” After the confrontation, Brandon reacted as his father told him to do and went to inform the referee what happened.
The Xtreme neglected to act on the report, within a few days, USA Hockey had opened an investigation. This led to the suspension of “Xtreme coach Karl Huber for 10 games, hockey director Troy MacCormick for five games and an unnamed player for three games.”
However, they didn’t find out about the ruling until months later, saying that they felt the decisions made by USA Hockey wasn’t enough.
Brandon Bernard said he intially thought the noises players were making was simply chanting until he was informed otherwise. “It broke me down,” he told USA Today.
After the first incident, the boys father Lionel Bernard decided to talk to his sons about what happened.
“If this happens again, the first thing you should do is reach out to the referee or coach. Don’t retaliate or get upset,’” Bernard told them.
“I also told them that this is what you can expect when you’re playing a sport that has a limited number of minorities playing it,” he said. “You’re going to run across this thing. But note that you’re not the first individuals who have faced racism in sports.”
Then the second instance of racism, Brandon remembered his father’s advice.
“The first thing I did when I heard it, (I) was angry, and then I calmed myself down,” he said, “and then I ran over to the ref and was like ‘This, this, and this happened. It was so and so.’”
The game continued, since the referees didn’t hear what was said. Landon, a goaltender, was informed about the slur from a teammate, and he responded by letting the rival team score enough goals for the mercy rule to be invoked to bring the game.
“The majority of racist incidents that take place on the ice are not made public or not reported through the proper channels,” said Duante’ Abercrombie, a member of the Washington Capitals’ Black Hockey Committee which involves community leaders tackling the issue of racism and introducing the sport to under-served communities.
“We want to educate to eradicate racism,” Abercrombie said. “Of course, the individual needs to be suspended, because they’ve shown they’re not mature enough to be a part of competition or USA Hockey at the moment. So, suspend their ability to participate, but don’t just cut them off. You have to rehabilitate, so to speak, so that this doesn’t happen again and, honestly, so this individual becomes an advocate for race relations in the future.”
According to USA Hockey, Ashburn’s discipline will include “educational training at the recommendations of the organization’s director of diversity and inclusion, Stephanie Jackson.”
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