After receiving racist messages and comments on social media following Edmonton’s series-ending loss to the Winnipeg Jets last Monday, Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear spoke out against the racial abuse he experienced.
In their final game of the season against the Jets Bear scored on the Oilers’ net. That unfortunately tied the score between the two teams and the oilers later lost the game in triple overtime.
However despite the hockey team’s loss, it was the racial comments against Bear that made headlines.
One day after the game, Bear’s girlfriend, Lenasia Ned, announced that the Indigenous defence man had been receiving racist messages and comments from disgruntled Oilers fans who blamed the entirety of the loss on Bear.
Ned’s announcement sparked outrage among First Nations and Canadians alike. Many social media posts were made in defense of Ethan Bear and many Indigenous organizations released statements, and created a media frenzy with many sharing the Bear’s statement online.
The video Bear released containing his statement in response to the situation showed his own positivity.
“We just came off a hard fought series. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but the guys left it all on the line,” said Bear. “As you know, I’ve been subject to racist behaviour on social media. I know this doesn’t represent all Oilers fans or hockey fans and I greatly appreciate your love and support during this time.”
“I’m here to stand up to this behaviour. To these comments. I’m proud of where I come from. I’m proud to be from Ochapowace First Nation.”
“And I’m not just doing this for myself, I’m doing this for all people of colour, I’m doing this for the next generation. To help make change. To love one another. To support one another. To be kind to each other. There is no place for racism in our communities, in sports or in our work place,” said Bear.
He concluded his statement by saying, “I call on all of us to help make change and to end racism. We all deserve to be treated fairly, and in the end I think we’ll get there.”
Shortly after, the Oilers’ General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, Ken Holland, said that the comments towards Bear are “totally unacceptable. It’s disgusting. Ethan is an unbelievable young man. He’s a tremendous role model for all young athletes, especially in the Indigenous community.”
The NHL as an organization also supported the Indigenous Hockey Star, writing: “Ethan Bear represents both our game and his Indigenous heritage with dignity and pride. He, and all people from Indigenous backgrounds, deserve to feel empowered and respected on and off the ice. We stand with Ethan and his family in denouncing hate.”
On Saturday, Oilers Captain Connor McDavid posted to write that the experience of Bears’ is one that the team will stand with him against.
“The racist comments directed at our teammate and brother Ethan Bear are not acceptable,” wrote McDavid. “The individuals who spew this type of hate, should think twice about their behaviour. Ethan is such a positive role model for the Ochapowace First Nation and does so much amazing work in our local Edmonton community. On behalf of all of my Oiler teammates, we stand strong behind Ethan and against racism of any kind.”
The Oilers also released a statement on Wednesday condemning the racist abuse directed at the young defenceman as well.
“The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club is equally disappointed in these disgusting, cowardly and racist remarks,” the team’s statement read.
“While we have witnessed progress in the area of equality and inclusion, this reprehensible behaviour demonstrates we still have significant work to do.”“Ethan Bear is an incredibly skilled hockey player and a beloved teammate,” the statement continued. “His community-minded efforts both here in Edmonton and in Saskatchewan represent the qualities any organization could possibly ask of its members. These comments also fly in the face of the work the organization has done to embrace reconciliation and build a strong and positive relationship with our Indigenous community.
“We call upon everyone in Oil Country to stand up to racism, call out hatred and do their part in making our community one of acceptance, inclusion and respect.”