Sidney Crosby admitted athletes are role models and can help in the battle against systemic racism. As the league and private organizations are examining ways hockey can become accessible and stem racism, Crosby’s acknowledgment made perhaps the most useful but straightforward explanation of what players can do.
His comments on Friday stood in contrast to three decades of Nike Commercials, which claim athletes aren’t role models and athlete who refuse the job. Crosby understands fans, and especially young ones, admire and emulate athletes. Despite the gravity of the enormous admission, it seemed a matter of fact and sincere.
“We’re role models, first and foremost. I think we understand that. We understand what’s going on in the world. We’re important when it comes to being part of change,” he said. “I just think there are important conversations that you have to have. I know, personally, I’ve had some of those.”
Crosby’s comments were made one day after San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane slammed the NHL for inactivity. Kane is the co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which was created to battle racism in hockey.
Kane, who is the HDA co-founder, called the NHL leadership to account for the league’s failure to accept any of the Alliance’s proposals.
Kane, who is Black, publicly said his proposals fell on deaf ears. On Friday, Crosby, too, was asked about what he is doing and what the league can do to eliminate racism in the game.
“The NHL can put ‘Black Lives Matter’ all over the rink, shout ‘Black Lives Matter’ from the mountains,” Kane told TSN reporter Frank Seravalli. “No matter what they do or say, it’s all going to fall on deaf ears with me and every other person in the HDA because the league has made no effort to support its own Black players.”
Crosby has captained Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, the World Championships, and the Olympics. He is the face of this hockey generation. When he speaks, his words make headlines.
“…But I still need to continue to (have those conversations). Just educate ourselves, whether it’s where we play or in our communities, how we can make a difference,” Crosby said.
The Hockey Diversity Alliance was organized after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who was being held by police. Kane joined with seven current NHL players, including Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, and Wayne Simmonds. Akim Aliu is the co-chair with Kane.
Aliu’s corroborated accusations of mistreatment and use of racial slurs by coach Bill Peters while Peters coached Alu in junior hockey, led to Peters’s dismissal from the Calgary Flames this season.
The group operates independently of the league but had support from the NHL, especially Kim Davis, the league’s senior vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs,
However, she pushed back hard on Kane’s suggestion that the league ignored the group.
Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri also criticized the league in defense of the HDA.
“As players, we have addressed it,” Kadri said. “From a league standpoint, I think we’d like to see a little more acknowledgment, and to have (the NHL) address the situation and to know that they stand with their players.”