Wild theme night drawing heat

Marc Elliott

BIG SANDY LAKE – The NHL and its franchises recently released their 2022-23 regular season schedules.

Additionally, several clubs announced their “celebration” or “theme” night schedule. This is where a team and its fans pay tribute to or celebrate a particular group or individual.

For the Minnesota WILD, one of their announced theme nights will acknowledge the many members of Law Enforcement in The State of Hockey. On Nov. 1, it will be Law Enforcement Appreciation night when the club faces off against the Montreal Canadiens in St. Paul.

Fans attending that night were to receive a commemorative tee shirt that features a slightly altered version of a shirt that became popular in the recent past featuring an American flag in black with white stars and stripes, except for one stripe that is in blue. This one also has the familiar hockey stick blade at the end of it.

During the racial strife that occurred in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis, committed by a law enforcement officer, many in the country questioned the use of excessive force against Floyd and turned on law enforcement. It gave birth to the Defund the Police movement, among other initiatives decrying police violence against citizens, particularly people of color and other minorities.

As a result of the outcry against police about the Floyd incident, the “Blue Lives Matter” movement enjoyed a renaissance of sorts (it began in 2014). It seemed to be as much of a statement against the Black Lives Matter movement as it was supposedly for the support of law enforcement.

The current Thin Blue Line movement’s origins go back to the 1950s when the LAPD and Chief Bill Parker used it. It was meant to show the fragile line between law and order and anarchy and that law enforcement was the only thing standing between the two. It intended to illuminate the work done by law enforcement individuals to protect the public.

The “thin blue line flag,” which was a merger between the black and white flag and the thin blue line symbol, first appeared in prominence at the “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia in 2017 that had it appearing in the assembled crowd next to Nazi symbolism, and other hate-driven imagery.

If one considers what the “right” actually stands for and represents these days, that is of little surprise. It was also on display at the Jan. 6 coup attempt in DC on behalf of the insurrectionists driving the rioting in the nation’s capital that day.

So, is the WILD a racially driven organization, or did someone make a simple mistake in the design of the shirt in question?

I do NOT see the WILD as an organization that would knowingly promote racism or racist theory. I can admit I may have a bias due to being a fan of the game and the club. But it is a stretch for me even to think that before or after the Floyd murder. That’s not the WILD.

Not everyone agrees with me. An assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick, Nathan Kalman-Lamb, has been taking the club to task.

After the theme night and the symbol used came under fire, the club removed the symbol from its website and issued this statement: “We understand the black and blue flag symbol means many things to many people. Our only intention was to show support for law enforcement for the outstanding work they do in our local communities. Moving forward, we will work hard to show appreciation for various groups in ways that best reflect our shared community values.”

Kalman-Lamb had this to say about the team release: “That the Minnesota Wild would choose to employ imagery closely associated with both racist police brutality and far-right movements more broadly, when the franchise itself essentially sits at the site of George Floyd’s murder by police, sends a powerful message about the ‘community’ that the team is trying to court as fans.”

Sorry, Professor, I disagree with your assessment. However poorly constructed and written the team’s response was, they are not a racist organization, and I’m reasonably sure they would not actively seek to find racists and haters to add to their fan base. They would be unwelcome by a substantial majority of the team’s supporters anyway.

You state that they “choose” to employ imagery associated with racism and police brutality. I say no to that nonsense as well. How would you know that it was a matter of “choice”? I believe it was probably an honest mistake by someone in the club’s marketing department.

Even for me, who studies politics and current affairs upwards of 50 hours per week, while being aware of the recent past’s Blue Lives Matter and Thin Blue Line references, it wasn’t a front-of-mind consciousness thing for me. I had to take a few minutes to refresh my thoughts on those items when this story first broke. Of course, you leave no room for that possibility.

Both the league and the team committed to promoting inclusivity and social change following the conviction of the officer that killed Floyd. Now Kalman-Lamb believes the club hasn’t lived up to its promise. He claims, “this promotion and the Wild’s refusal to apologize for it in earnest are an incredibly clear and disturbing signal that despite two years of lip service to the contrary, North American hockey culture remains a profoundly – toxically – white space.”

I can’t deny that ice hockey is a predominantly “white sport.” There are multiple factors for that, the cost of participation likely being at the top of the list. I have been in or around the game for 60-plus years now, and I’ve never heard anyone in it plotting on how to keep people of color from participating. Programs have been built to overcome the cost factors and are progressing.

What would remedy this matter? The team has already removed the symbol in question from the theme night and from its website.

I believe the reissuance of a better written and more thorough statement of understanding and apology is in order. And after that, how about we acknowledge that the matter was probably a mistake of sorts and take a chill pill?

Professor, I appreciate your concerns and diligence regarding this; I really do because I despise racists and haters in this country and the world over. They are incapacitated, mental weaklings. It’s easy to hate. It takes more effort to find ways for all of us to get along, which is what I want and what I’m pretty sure the Minnesota WILD wants too. PEACE

THE 2022 IIHF WORLD JUNIORS Championship continues on, and Team USA, with a win versus Team Sweden this eve, (3-2) went to a 4-0 record in the preliminaries and will draw Team Czechia in the quarterfinals, which will begin on Wednesday the 17th. The Yanks finished first in Group B. I
didn’t have a good feeling going into this tourney, even considering the USA came in as the defending Champion. Their play has taken that concern away. Somewhere along the line though, we will have to contend with Finland, Canada or both. But I have confidence now, not concern.

Let’s go Boys! OVER & OUT!