The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, January 22, 2021

FIRST LOOK at the NWHL End Racism patches — NWHL players talk End Racism — Kneeling and standing for the anthem

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Tori Howran. (photo courtesy of NWHL)

What kneeling solves, and doesn’t

Today, the National Women’s Hockey League officially announced information on its End Racism stance and the Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee. All 120 players will wear this patch, modeled above by Tori Howran.

“The NWHLPA stands firmly against racism of all kinds, and is proud of the legacy our BIPOC players and alumni have created in Women’s Hockey,” said Anya Packer, Executive Director of the NWHLPA and The IX Advisory Committee member. “The world today is fractured, but in the NWHLPA we will continue to educate our athletes, leverage our platforms, and drive meaningful action to make hockey a more diverse and inclusive space. We want our stance to be clear, so we are proud to wear End Racism patches.”

Later in the newsletter, I’ll provide quotes from the players. For now, I hope you indulge me as I head into Annie’s WoSo territory. There has been a conversation about kneeling, or not kneeling lately and for those who don’t know my stance, I’d like to make it abundantly clear:


In a recent article about the gesture on the WoSo side, a colleague at All For XI wrote a thoughtful opinion piece. However, I must say I didn’t agree with all of it, particularly this part:

“The signal often received is an unwillingness to even approach the lowest hurdle, let alone step over it. It is difficult to face that reality so starkly, and is itself another form of hurt. Kneeling with Black teammates in front of the world is a signal to white viewers everywhere that the weight of whiteness can and should be confronted, and lessened. There is not a simpler, more defanged action that still has utility in specific contexts — such as after eight months protesting the brutal theft of Black lives without justice, and on Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Another barb thrown in defense of standing is that kneeling is not The Real Work, and The Real Work matters more. And while that is a true statement, albeit one devoid of any definition or context, it’s rarely if ever followed by promotion of actual anti-racist work, or a revealing of the ways in which the speaker is confronting whiteness in and around their own lives.”

Is kneeling the lowest hurdle? For me, the answer is no. The lowest hurdle for me is saying Black Lives Matter. Period!

The NWHL chose the slogan End Racism. I have a feeling that some players will embrace the statement All Black Lives Matter, and some won’t.


Black Lives Matter has been politicized. That is why kneeling isn’t the lowest bar, nor does it signify a complete understanding of the importance of saying All Black Lives Matter.

I can assure you, this tiresome conversation of kneeling or not will penetrate the NWHL season in Lake Placid and I will again have to remind people that standing does not mean a player doesn’t believe All Black Lives Matter or doesn’t support or have the support of their teammates.

I also must say, the capitalization here of The Real Work brothers me somewhat. I know people use that statement as an excuse, just as I know some people wear justice statements for fashion or “For the Gram” and then return to their privilege.

But if you’re reading me for one of the first times, let me just remind you what The Real Work means:

I always appreciate when Women’s Pro Hockey to Seattle reshares this post from June. It was called “What will you do?”.

The Real Work starts at different places for different people. But I can promise you, The Real Work is not shaming someone into kneeling.

I have already broken my own rule in this post about focusing more on kneeling than actionable steps, so I will move on. Henceforth, I will not reiterate my opinion on this matter (and yes, this is my opinion and I know not all will share it). Instead, I will do what I always do. I will help people find their rightful place along the Midwest Academy Demand for Change spectrum:

Kneeling during the anthem is accepting the existing power relationship, that anthems are a foregone conclusion in sports.

If we were to slide further towards direct action, we would be educating people about the anthem. Kaepernick did this, but not many athletes after have bothered to consistently talk about the anthem in relation to Liberation Movements and calls to end Police Brutality.

Direct action would be akin to something WNBA champion Sue Bird mentioned during a chat on Clubhouse. She said the WNBA Social Justice Council is actively discussing if they should even play the anthem.

THAT is the The Real Work!

  • Why are we accepting that an anthem should be played at all and then choosing to focus on what white players are doing?

  • Why not encourage policies to change?

  • Why not educate on the inherent racism of the Star-Spangled Banner and nationalism?

The culture of standing or respecting the flag has BIG colonizer vibes. Across the world, Europeans forced themselves onto land previously occupied and then forced those people pledge allegiance to their ruler, their flag, their religion, their whiteness.

So, when I tell you I don’t give a damn if someone kneels or not, I mean it! Because for me, it’s still operating and accepting a racist system. To kneel or not to kneel is not the question.

What we should be asking is, why are we playing one (two in hockey) anthems when pro athletes come from a variety of countries and cultures?

This is the conversation I’ll be having this NWHL season. Hope you’ll join me!

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

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The NWHL season starts tomorrow and Mike Murphy has your roster updates.

Rise & Grind with the Junior Rangers and Dunkin’! I’m thrilled to host this series.

Our guests for Episode 1 are:

  • Dana Reid, Dunkin

  • Anya Packer, NWHLPA executive director

  • Paul Mara, Boston Pride head coach

  • Sammy Davis, Boston Pride Rookie

  • Cailey Hutchison, Riveters Forward

  • Rebecca Morse, Riveters Forward

Hockey Canada announces roster for upcoming camp.

Preparing for the #NDubble with Lindsay Eastwood.

Twin City Thunder defeat PWHPA All-Stars in overtime.

And the NWHL broadcast details are here! You might recognize some names.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: NWHL Players on Ending Racism

These quotes are from the official release announcing the NWHL End Racism patches. The patches were first seen in a photo posted by the Connecticut Whale, but no information was made available until today. The picture below shows Connecticut Whale rookie defender Tori Howran wearing the patch. Photo from NWHL release.

NWHL Player Statements

Briana Mastel, Boston Pride:

The heartbeat of racism is denial.” ~Author and activist Ibram X. Kendi

When it comes to ending racism, I believe everyone has a personal responsibility to acknowledge one’s own implicit biases. Being anti-racist is a choice one makes every day, that is guided by courageous conversations and continuously educating oneself. It’s never too late to take action to create positive change.”

Brooke Stacey, Buffalo Beauts: “Whether anyone decides to stand or kneel, the Buffalo Beauts and the NWHL are united in our goal to contribute in the mission to end racism. Racism is very prevalent in the U.S. and Canada, and it must end. All people deserve to be treated equally with respect and dignity.”

Kaycie Anderson, Connecticut Whale: “I am proud to wear the End Racism patch on my jersey. Furthermore, as a diverse player, I am proud to be a member of a league that is communicating loudly that we will not tolerate acts of hatred or racism and seek only to contribute to and be the change our world needs. This season I wear this patch for my indigenous grandmother, my African, Cuban grandfather and every individual who has experienced racism in their life. I stand with you and with my family and I am here to be a part of the change.”

Saroya Tinker, Metropolitan Riveters: “As a current Riveters rookie and NWHL Player of Color, I feel supported by both my teammates and league. Our End Racism campaign has brought forth the opportunity for uncomfortable, but important conversations to be had amongst teammates, coaches and the NWHL staff. With this, I am confident that each and every individual understands the history and importance of bringing these systemically ingrained issues to the forefront as we continue to use our platforms for good as professional athletes. As a Black player in the league, I know my voice is being heard we strive to make the hockey community an inclusive place for all no matter what race, gender, or ethnicity.”

Whitney Dove, Buffalo Beauts: “Being a player of color in the NWHL I will be a part of the change that we strive to see in raising awareness about racism and inclusion in our sport. I’m proud to be among the other athletes in this league that are passionate about this issue, and I stand behind our message in making hockey a more comfortable and enjoyable environment for everyone.”

Rebecca Morse, Metropolitan Riveters: “As a co-chair of the NWHLPA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, I’m incredibly proud to see an overwhelmingly positive response to the League’s End Racism campaign from our players, staff, partners, and various other stakeholders. While racial injustice is a widespread issue that extends beyond North America, I believe that I can make the biggest impact by using my platform to promote change across women’s hockey and help shift the culture as an ally to the BIPOC community. One of the reasons why I continue to play hockey professionally is that I want to leave the sport better than I found it. Hockey should be a welcoming and inclusive space for everyone, but the sad reality is that it’s not at the moment. My goal is to help eliminate barriers to entry into the sport and highlight the people and organizations who align with this goal. We all must create an environment in which every single person feels like hockey is for them.”

Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Toronto Six: “It’s amazing to see the league take a stand for something that sadly is a still a significant problem in our society. Having the End Racism patch on every team’s jersey conveys a clear message that the league is United in the stance against ending racism.”

Tera Hoffman, Metropolitan Riveters: “As professional athletes, we have a unique platform to combat injustice. I hope wearing the End Racism patches on our jerseys helps to remind our fans and everyone that this sport is bigger than us. In fact, hockey is often inaccessible to People of Color, and it is our job to help foster a more inclusive atmosphere so every person with the dream has the opportunity to truly succeed at playing the highest level of hockey possible. Furthermore, it is essential that we continue to learn about our ignorance, and ensure that we are doing everything we can as players to make a positive change in the league.”

Allie Thunstrom, Minnesota Whitecaps: “Over the past year especially, the work and determination of ourBIPOC teammates, some leaders in the women’s hockey media, and others to make our sport more inclusive has been on tremendous display, and I applaud and thank them. We realize and accept that the work here is not done

and we want to do everything we can to educate ourselves and others of the implicit biases that exist all around us. We will always have differences – within every group there are differences – and that is what makes people unique. But what all of us in the NWHL share is our deep love for the game. We must collectively focus on ensuring that all are welcome in our game.”

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
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By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
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By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
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By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala