Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward was the hero of Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Capitals-Bruins NHL playoff series, but his shining moment was followed by racial epithets posted to Twitter in the hours after the game.
Ward scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lead the Capitals to a 2-1 victory and eliminate the Bruins from the playoffs.
Some Twitter users posted reactions that used vulgar terms and racist expressions in reference to Ward, who is black. Several web sites, including Chirpstory and Black Sports Online, collected offensive tweets from around the country, and the reactions have been a talking point on sports radio and the blogosphere.
Ward told USA Today he was alerted to the comments on the team's flight home.
"It doesn't faze me at all," Ward said. "We won, and we are moving on. … People are going to say what they want to say."
Many of the pages of the Twitter users in question have been removed.
However, Twitter's rules page indicates the service does not expressly prohibit the use of racial epithets, nor does it moderate the content posted to Twitter. It does require users to "comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content."
The Bruins issued the following statement on the matter via the team's Twitter account.
“The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night. These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis also condemned the racial attacks on his blog and pledged the organization’s support to Ward.
“What these people have said and done is unforgivable,” Leonsis wrote. “I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs.”
While the tweets perpetuated Boston's reputation for racism, Ward said he's heard from many Bruins fans.
I'm definitely getting a lot of support," Ward said. "There have been a lot of Boston fans who have supported me, which is very cool to see. No hard feelings from me. This is a game."
During the preseason, the NHL condemned an incident with racial overtones at a Detroit-Philadelphia game in London, Ontario.
A banana was thrown from the stands at Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds during a shootout. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said it was a “stupid and ignorant action.”
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer