It started after Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban potted a powerplay goal in the first period. As the Bruins' nemesis celebrated, many took to Twitter to unleash racist remarks against Subban. Few identified as Bruins fans, which was a relief. But, after the flashy blueliner ripped the game-winner in double overtime, the true scumbags came out of the woodwork.
Of course, many of these tweets were deleted and many of these users backpedaled at the sight of their mentions tabs, but the damage was done. A small smattering of intolerant fans had already revived the ghastly memory of the Joel Ward fallout of 2012 and, to a greater extent, the racism seen by other athletes (like LeBron James and Richard Sherman) every day on Twitter.
Upon seeing these 140-character epithets, every true Bruins fan hung their head in shame. If only we could put a lifetime ban on these bigoted loudmouths.
Though many of the outraged tweeters were Bruins fans, the tweets caught fire, and the fandom of thousands was again sullied by the fringe opinions of a few. Some noted the irony of hurling epithets at Subban when his brother is a prospect in the Boston system. Of course, this is a logical fallacy. Regardless of who you cheer for, and who is on that team, this behavior is unacceptable - especially in Boston. And it's damaging our city's reputation.
Bruins President Cam Neely addressed the outbreak today in a statement to the media, saying "The racist, classless views expressed by an ignorant group of individuals following Thursday's game via digital media are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization."
The ballast was mercifully more contained than the post-Ward shakeup, which is encouraging, but for every imbecile with the gall to tweet their prejudice, there were countless others who dared not. Instead, they gracelessly hurled the "n" word at the TV or texted it to friends. Twitter-shaming the offenders has become a common practice, but it does less to solve the problem than we would've hoped.
The issue isn't that this opinion exists on Twitter - it's that it still exists at all. Though we, as Bostonians, consider ourselves progressive and accepting, the fact that such venomous sentiments still persist is equal parts shameful and alarming. Some of these tweets were perpetrated by people with Bruins players in their avis and "Boston Strong" in their bios. As Bruins fans, we need to return to the paragon of tolerance we once were when we skated Willie O'Ree, the NHL's first black player, in 1958. We need to vehemently reject these people and the vile reputation they put on us.
Twice has this cloud fallen on fans of the Spoked B. The fact is that this very noisy minority of fans is doing more to harm the image of honest sports fans than anything in recent memory. As a community, Bruins fans need to stand up against this kind of behavior and let the rest of the hockey world know that there is no place for racism in a black and gold sweater.