Friday, November 1, 2013

The elephant in the room: racism and PK



  Well-meaning people with honest agendas might reject racism as a factor in the debate over PK Subban's suitability as a potential Team Canada Olympic defenceman, but in the absence of a logical explanation, what else is there?
   Subban was honored last season with the Norris Trophy as the best defenceman in the best hockey league in the world.  That alone should make him a slam dunk for the Olympic team, but Subban's detractors are quick to trot our a parade of half-baked arguments against him, including but not limited to:
- the Norris Trophy is awarded on the basis of offensive statistics
- Subban is a defensive liability whose own NHL coach won't play him in crucial situations
- Canada is already loaded with right-handed defencemen who are better than Subban
- his personality makes him a potentially disruptive force in the dressing room
   I've watched Subban on a regular basis since he joined the Canadiens, and while I've seen him make mistakes - like all defencemen do - for anyone who watches and knows the game to call him a defensive liability is intellectually dishonest.  Coaches make mistakes, too, and one of Michel Therrien's shortcomings is his bullheadedness when it comes to using Rafael Diaz instead of Subban on the penalty kill or in the closing minutes of close games.  The very idea of Diaz being defensively superior to Subban is the stuff of fairy tales, and Therrien needs to get off the pixie dust.
   The left vs. right-handed defenceman argument is the lamest of them all.  With all due respect, the notion of Dan Hamhuis, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Karl Alzner or Jay Bouwmeester making the Olympic team ahead of Subban solely on the basis of dextrality is beyond preposterous.
   So where does that leave us?  Ah, yes: Subban's personality - his flamboyance.  When was the last time you heard a white athlete referred to as "flamboyant"?  White athletes with Subban's outgoing personality are inspirational leaders and sparkplugs.  Give a black man the same personality and he's a "potential problem in the room".  Flamboyance is code for "uppity", and Subban should "know his place".  Want another example?  When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady loses his shit on the sidelines and screams at coaches and fellow players, he's hailed as a fierce competitor who's motivating his teammates with his unbending will to win.  When Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant does the same thing, he's vilified as an immature prima donna and an embarrassment to the franchise.  Same scenario, but the difference is Brady is white and Bryant is black.
   None of this racism is necessarily overt.  It's a product of centuries of social conditioning.  It's only been two generations since the last vestiges of institutionalized racism against black people went by the wayside, and in the context of human history and social evolution, two generations is the blink of an eye.  Much of the residual racism is implicit, latent or subconscious, but it's racism nonetheless.
   Lastly, there's this: ample precedent exists for racism in professional sports.  The examples are numerous and well documented.  There is no precedent for a Norris Trophy winner being left off an elite hockey roster, or for such an omission even being a consideration. 
   Do the math.



  

38 comments:

  1. I happen to believe that PK is a fantastic talent that Habs fans crave. End to end rushes and a booming slapper. He's one of the reasons I watch the games. Interesting commentary but one problem. Too speculative. It's always an easy out to claim underlying racism but there is no proof of anything you write about. Hate to say it, but article smacks of Sharptonesque race baiting.

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    1. But the questions should be asked when the Norris Trophy winner still considered a top 5 defensemen in the league doesn't even get an "invite". Racism is not always blatant and obvious. It can be quite insidious and subtle.

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    2. FYI : Subban received an invite this summer

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    3. This reply was made by a white person who has no idea about how racism has worked throughout centuries. No black man or white person would ever say race baiting if they knew truly how racism works and is systematic. GREAT ARTICLE AND WHAT WONDERFUL COMPARISONS BETWEEN TOM BRADY AND DEZ. IT TAKES COURAG AND INTEGRITY TO POINT OUT THESE ISSUES AMIDST PEOPLE WHODONT UNDERSTAND RACISM AND ITS COVERT WAYS. ESPECIALLY IN HOCKEY!

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  2. While I'm glad you tried playing the race card, if Team Canada was racist at choosing players, why was Iginla on the 2010 team anyways??? They could have chosen the whiter Stamkos, but they didn't. And remember we, as fans were trying to figure out why Yzerman didn't choose Stamkos???

    I just think it's time to give it up and let Team Canada choose whoever they want. I mean, you'll cheer for them anyways, racist or not.

    PS: Tell Jack Todd to tell people they are racist when they are not or that they have never said any racist comments!

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    1. Be serious. Take a look at Subban and then take a look at Iginla and tell me there's no difference.

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    2. Iginla vs Stamkos......really you are talking about a first ballot Hall of Famer and a guy who has a few really good seasons. To say that they did Iginla a favour by selecting him over Stamkos is a disrespect to Jarome.

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    3. Stamkos had a whopping 46 pts the prior season and didn't win the Calder. Crosby, Gretzky were left out their rookie season. Many examples of players not being chosen before they've proven themselves in at least one full amazing season. As the author said, name an example of a player winning a trophy for best dman, forward, etc. and not making the team.

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  3. Good article. 100% bang on.

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  4. While I believe PK should be on team Canada, I do not believe race has anything to do with it.

    Personality? Maybe
    Familiarity with other players? Definitely

    but race no. In fact, its been 4 years now that everytime something happens negatively in regards to PK, the race card has been brought up.

    Its the easiest excuse to make. Coaches, players and GMs don't like him because he's black.

    PK has represented Canada on multiple occasions, including this past year's World Championships in Sweden. So he's not, excuse the pun, blacklisted.

    He has won the Norris Trophy, yes. He was awesome. And the fact remains that he has untapped potential.

    that being said, look at the 2010 team. Yzerman and co enjoy putting players together that already have strong chemistry together.

    Toews-Keith-Seabrook

    Heatley-Marleau-Thornton-Boyle

    Getzlaf-Perry-Neidermayer

    Pronger-Richards

    guys like MSL and Stamkos were left off that year. Is there a French Canadian & Greek hatred as well?

    If Letang makes it, its because he and Crosby have a shared chemistry. Chemistry is important in these types of competitions because these guys have no time to gel in practice. So management want players who know each other well and know how each other play. The game is made of split second decisions and when the stakes are high, you want your d-man to know if your fwd will zig instead of zag on that first pass out.

    So, to reiterate, I do not think its about Race whatsoever. I just think its about fit, but i also believe he should be there.

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  5. Marc, Jerome Iginla is "black" in color, not in "attitude". Like Ted writes, the fact that PK is "uppity" is what ruffles feathers. Just after the 2002 Olympics, I heard Wayne Gretzky refer to Jerome Iginla as Gary Iginla... I kid you not! That's all you need to know to figure out the difference between Gary and PK.

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  6. Anyone who thinks that race has nothing to do with the PK detractors, whether subliminally or otherwise is delusional. I have been banging that drum since last year. Even absent of any racism, how does any rational hockey mind suggest that a player who won gold at the world juniors, won the Norris Trophy and is at the top of his game can be a liability to Team Canada? Pretty sure that that roster of coaches can figure out how to get the most out of the number 1 offensive threat on Defence in the league. No?

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  7. Great article. I'm glad someone is finally saying it. The Tom Brady comparison is perfect.

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    1. What? Brady is a future hall of famer with 3 super bowl rings. bryant hasnt done anything. Tom Brady has earned the right to yell at his team, he IS the leader. Bryant hasnt earned anything yet.

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    2. You missed the point. Brady has won nothing since Spygate. As for his 3 rings - they will be tarnished forever.

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  8. I referred to PK as flamboyant in my recent article on him, but only in that sense that I also would refer to Jeremy Shockey or Ovechkin as flamboyant if writing an article about them.

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    1. But he is flamboyant. And it's ok. In the NBA or NFL PK would go totally unnoticed for his "flamboyance". He's got swag. Culturally this clashes with the NHL. Is it racism? I can't tell. But there is an obvious culture clash.

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  9. I didn't know the list was out? Was he left off the team? Is it final? come on now...why not wait until all the evidence is in before we start making presumptions of guilt. Also...I really doubt it has anything to do with color. Maybe the more we bring it up the more we give opportunity to those that are racist to have another go at it!
    PK has calmed down his Flamboyancy plenty in the past few months. He also makes some mistakes that have cost the team.
    Yes, PK should be there. Yes there are 16 other defensemen that were invited. Yes chemistry plays a huge role.
    In the end ...lets just hope Canada wins with or without him!

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  10. Couldn't agree more with this post.

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  11. I'm not a habs fan(sens all the way) but I always have a soft spot for Canadians who help Canada to glory on the international stage. With that in mind, if I was picking this team Subban and Price both make it, both played their hearts with the maple leaf on their jerseys, specifically at the World U20(WJHC).

    However, i'm glad I don't have that responsibility. I'll leave that up to the guys who picked the last Gold medal winning team(we were happy with gold right?) And the coach who lead them. Babcock has a keen mind when it comes to hockey, and when he says he wants a balance of Left and Right shooting defencemen...I dunno...I don't think that is his home run swing at appearing to be a bigot.

    Mike Green was a perennial Norris Trophy nominee in the years leading up to 2010, he was passed over and really it was for the best. Did you want Green on the ice in overtime against the US? Jeez the thought alone is cringe worthy to a die hard Canadian hockey fan. Just to clarify, PK is a much better defenseman in his own zone than Green. Point is, there is precedent for this management group going against the media's idea of who the best players are.

    For PK to be the quote, slam dunk to make the team, you would have to say that both Chris Kunitz and Taylor Hall are guaranteed roster spots aswell based on their performance during the very limited sample that was PK's 45 game, 1st All Star team season last year. Both Kunitz were Canada's best 2 left wingers last year, and both have big game experience.

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    1. Oh Kunitz and Hall also won trophies for being the best at their position? Didn't know...

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  12. I am a big Ted Bird fan but cannot agree with bringing something like race into this. Hockey management, GM and coaches have to choose a hockey team based on talent/chemistry and needs. If someone feel PK is not ready or the number one choice to be a number 1 to number 3 defenseman on this team and they feel playing him 10 min a game or just on the power play may be too hard on the kid then I think we should respect their opinion (not saying they or right or wrong) and give them the chance to prove it. If they make a mistake and the team bombs out then we replace them. I have coached minor hockey and must admit I have made one or two mistakes choosing my team (okay possibly more) but I can honestly say I was trying to do my best and I would be really sorry to hear someone say I did so based on language or race. Please Let us honor our Country and our citizens by backing them in their choice, feel for those that made the team and route for our team..... Ted I think your opinion is totally wrong but hey you may be right but I for one would hope we can all understand were free to have our opinions just sometimes it is better not to act on something that could be so wrong and hurtful to the team called Canada. You would not be chosen by me for Team Canada because of Chemistry reason's. All the best to you and I am still a fan just a little deflated you went this route. Go Canada go and PK if you are not chosen please take it out on the league and prove everyone you should have been selected by leading our Canadian's to a Stanley Cup If you are selected please prove the world that you are deserving by leading us to Gold and to a Stanley Cup.

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    1. Shake your head.. after you take it out of the sand.. then get some poly-filler.. apply where necessary.. finally, re-insert head into sand.. kind regards.

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  13. Karlsson won the Norris without playing on the penalty kill (usually just showed up at the tail end of it to start the counter attack if the kill was successful) and was already having his name engraved on it to repeat when he got injured. Yet no one ever brings that up. Subban won it in his first year NOT playing on the penalty kill, despite being part of a top 3 penalty kill unit both as a rookie and sophomore and with Markov out injured for 90% of the time (because for whatever reason this coaching staff wants to burn out Markov and prefers Diaz swinging his stick at things over Subban's quick ability to get the puck out or his solid board work), and it's the first so-called "knock" on him everyone brings up as to why he shouldn't be on the Team Canada roster. I don't know if it's racist prejudice seeping in subconsciously but something smells in the unfairness he's portrayed.

    This whole notion of Left Defence-Right Defence...I don't remember anyone bringing this up at the 2010 Olympics. Why is it that NOW it's an issue? If Subban, who was a HUGE part in the comeback of Team Canada's U20 vs Team USA, is left off this team then they better cruise to gold considering how much they're hyping this...

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  14. Why is having 6 left handed defensemen an acceptable circumstance. Yet, 6 right handed defensemen is something beyond comprehension!? What if Canada had 6 right handed black defensemen!? Indoctrination is strong in people. Wakey wakey!

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  15. www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/habs-not-helping-subban-shake-bad-rep/article15203112/?cmpid=rss1

    Mainstream media doing what they do best! Don Cherry approves of this article.

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  16. If there is an area where racist barriers can be broken, it is in the wonderful world of sports. Bottom line is, everybody wants to win and if the player is that good, somehow, they'll bring down the walls to let him play. The problem with PK is, he just isn't THAT good, not at both ends of the rinks anyway. Not only that, he is a bit of a strong head and likes to do it his way. People have a short memory, prior to the past few games, Subban was indeed used late in periods and games. However, a few games ago he screwed up twice in the same game late in the second and third which lead to a Habs loss. At the post game presser all Therrien said was, one of our Dmen went in too deep at the wrong time without even naming Subban. Bottom line is, the kid is still learning, he was never known for his defensive abilities and they're working on it. Funny part is, a lot of people are blaming Therrien but, PK has progessed 10 folds under his tutelage. He's putting up better numbers than ever and his D game is coming along slowly but surely. He won what I call a half Norris for a half season of work, let's see if he can do it over the real grind of a full season. Bottom line is, when you're THAT good, there's no hesitation on anyone's part, everyone likes to win and no one passes on a player that can almost guarantee you will win, if there is such a thing. PK just isn't that, at least not yet, so why should he get a free pass over those who have been there before especially when Canada has already won with them. PK's time will come, maybe even this time around depending on injuries and stuff. This is Canada and PK isn't the only good Dman to pick from. If you're that good you get in, remember Jackie Robinson? If he could defeat the odds of racism way back when, I'm sure PK could defeat the odds of the lighter version of racism that is still present today. That's if it's even the case, which I highly doubt. PK still has some maturing to do, both on and off the ice. His time will come.

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    1. He was used in a more defensive role when he came in, and when he played on the pk canadiens had one of the best pk in the league. Just because Therrien uses him more offensively doesn't mean he's not just as good defensively. Also for his "half" Norris remember he missed a few weeks at the beginning of the season because of contract, and was playing 15min/game with Bouillon for the first few weeks. Shutting down Crosby in his first playoffs? Nah, he's not THAT good...

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  17. Thank you for this article. It may be distasteful to some and offensive to others - but necessary.
    Hockey is a different sort of sport. Canada is a different sort of country. In hockey, there are so many intangibles as anyone who has watched the sport will testify. I recall Bobby Orr detractors back in the day. They said he was successful because of the play of Dallas Smith; he was a defensive liability etc etc. Hey, even Harry Sinden got into the debate. He famously said that if he were down by a goal late in the game he would use Orr: if leading late in a game, he would prefer Ray Bourque. Denis Potvin fumed because Orr was named the top defenceman in 1976 after the 2nd Summit series.
    Hockey is still in the process of evolving and Black players are a new commodity in a previously All-White game. Stan Mikita recalled the harassment that he endured as a player born outside of Canada. No doubt, Subban and other Black players - Simmonds, Ward etc are facing what Mikita and Salming had to overcome - and Subban will, he is an incredibly strong-willed young man. His every move is analyzed and over analyzed. People will find reason to criticize Subban and some of them will be racists who hate the idea of a Black superstar, but they will never acknowledge their true motives. I believe that, maybe, CBC promotes such a racist.
    However, on the other hand, Canada was a haven for Black Quarterbacks when the NFL refused to acknowledge their existence. Warren Moon became the highest paid QB in the NFL after he was given the opportunity in Edmonton. The Edmonton Oilers once had 5 Black hockey players on its roster, it had a great Black goalie.
    Gradually, Black hockey stars will be accepted just as Black Quarterbacks and Russian and Swedish hockey players. The path is not going to be easy, but we WILL be recognizing Subban and Seth Jones etc as great athletes regardless of the colour of their skin.

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    1. Great response, the reality is sometimes hard to accept. Hockey is the final frontier for equality in North American sports and us Canadian's are doing our best to keep the status quo.

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  18. You nail it here.
    Whether or not people are comfortable with the race factor is too bad. It remains a big issue in our society at large...so in a sport where players of colour are a rarity? It is inevitable that it will rear it's head. Or that it is always there.
    I mean, really? Your intro shot is of fans wearing blackface. There are issues people are not even conscious of. I am not criticizing your choice of image, I think it is the perfect illustration of the issue that people will deny is an issue.

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  19. The facts do nothing to support the assertions that PK is not Olympic worthy. He is better than his counterparts in almost every category but for some reason cannot get the same level of respect. Very curious to say the least.

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  20. Bang on sir as always!

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  21. Montreal fan
    You guys always put it on racism, but yes PK is different and very talented, but if he acts like he is Michael Jordan, there will be problems, why don't you go ask his teamates for not respecting the way he acts outside and in the room.

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    1. Obviously, you have a pipeline into the Habs dressing room, so can you tell us what is being said and by whom. Otherwise just SHUT UP and wait for the next CBC Clown's tirade.

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  22. Every hockey fan knows straight up PK has earned his place to be on Team Canada. However, most white people have no concept of racism becuase as whites in North America, what can they base it on? Racism (on a wide level) doesn't happen to whites in schools, sports or jobs. There's can be no way whites can speak knowledgeably about racism when one has never experienced it. Try asking Stevie Wonder what flowers look like?

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  23. Montreal or TSN pseudo sport-journalist bullshit again...
    Racism...because PK plays 21 min vs 28 ???
    Its true that the TSN Leafs bandwagon wake up with a solide hard one in their pants when they see PK slams a guy in the board and dream to see this at the ACC every night. But sorry folks..it aint gonna happen
    As for montreal journalist...just shut up and enjoy this re-nouveau of the Habs giving a chance to the kids with all the mistake they will make along the way !

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  24. The hip-hop culture just doesn't work in the NHL. If you're not a boring no personality white Canadian who says nothing in his media interviews you are considered 'trouble'. Remember Evander Kane tweeting his money in Vegas? He was roasted for that. If Patrick Kane did the same, everybody would shrug it off. Subban's blackness just doesn't work in the NHL unfortunately. From the NHL's perspective, blackness is NFL/NBA stuff.

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