Nurse and Reaves collaborate in conversation on diversity and inclusion
Darnell Nurse and Ryan Reaves know the obstacles BIPOC hockey players face. The two sat down with Sportsnet host David Amber for a Team Rogers talk.
Darnell Nurse and Ryan Reaves may line up on different sides of the ice, but after the clock runs out on the ice, these two NHL players are working together to help break down barriers and advocate for diversity and inclusion within the sport of hockey.
The pair sat down for a virtual Team Rogers talk with Sportsnet host David Amber, and fielded questions from Team Rogers Draftees, as well as young BIPOC players representing Hockey4Youth, APNA, 3Nolans and Hockey Nova Scotia organizations. The conversation was one of many programming opportunities offered to young players as part of the Team Rogers Community Draft.
TURNING HATE INTO MOTIVATION AND EDUCATION
The parallels between Nurse and Reaves are unique. Growing up as the sons of professional athletes, both were drawn to hockey at an early age. As they perfected their game, the two can both recall instances of discrimination and discouragement.
Lending their advice to young players who may be experiencing similar situations, Reaves emphasized the importance of turning such hate and criticism into fuel to be better on the ice.
“I would say, don’t let anybody tell you [that] you can’t do something," explained Reaves, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Draft. “I’ve had people tell me there’s no way I can play in the NHL when I was younger because you know, my feet were too big, I was too slow. I’ve faced racism here and there. You just, you’ve got to ignore all that hate, but you gotta turn it into motivation.”
For Nurse, he sees an opportunity for education when it comes to facing discrimination.
“It’s almost an educating moment. It’s hard for anyone in that situation… you just have to stay strong. This [racism] is something that’s wrong that you shouldn’t be going through,” said Nurse in a response to a question about how to handle being the target of racism from a bully. “You have to believe in yourself and the people around you that you trust, that you can make a point to this person that, ‘Hey, this is not okay. This is not okay for me, this is not okay for you to be saying to somebody else.’”
MAKING PROGRESS AND ALLYSHIP
While Reaves and Nurse acknowledge that racism and discrimination can rear their heads in the game, they remain optimistic from seeing some of the conversations and changes occurring around the hockey world.
“This is a forum that I probably didn’t think would happen even just starting in the league six years ago,” said Nurse.
“As a whole, especially in this game, where you look around your locker room and 90, 95 percent of your team is white – to even go in the room nowadays…and you see a cop shooting an unarmed Black man, you can have a conversation and their ears are open…They can see what’s so wrong with this conversation that we’re having, and I think in that light that’s progress.”
Reaves stresses that white allies taking steps to educate themselves will only help to further the conversation, pointing back to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a great display of allyship.
“I think a perfect example of how you can help is what happened in the bubble,” said Reaves, who was happy to have an army of support from his fellow players in deciding to postpone play to bring awareness to systemic racism. “A lot of players, and I’m so happy a lot of players said this, a lot of players said, ‘I don’t know what you’re going through, I’m not going to pretend like I do, so I need to educate myself and then I can support you once I’m educated.’”
Amber added, “This isn’t a black or white issue, it’s a wrong or right issue…from the grassroots level of hockey all the way through to the NHL, the only way culture will change will be people seeing and calling out people, and saying ‘that’s not right, we’re not going to stand for that’ when it happens.”
In terms of seeing more minorities involved in the sport of hockey, both on the ice and in front offices, Reaves thinks it all starts by engaging minority communities early on.
“You’ve got to start with the kids, I think you have to drag these communities into the game, expose it to them. Try and get them playing, more Black players drafted, more Black players in the league, those players start retiring and they want to get into coaching, they want to be a GM… I think you’ve got to start with the kids and I think it trickles its way up.”
USING THEIR PLATFORM
A large social media following, regular media coverage and their games being televised are just a few of the ways NHL players can reach their fans , but to Reaves and Nurse, using that influence to specifically accelerate change is something they feel passionate about.
“When there’s something you feel strongly about, and I have that platform to use, why not? Some people don’t have that opportunity, some people don’t have the thousands of followers or media at their disposal,” said Reaves.
“For me, when there’s an issue like this that we’re talking about and I have those resources at my dispense, why not use them? It reaches more people and it starts the conversation up with more people and it touches more people. The conversation comes back tenfold when we use that.”
Nurse, who has over 129,000 followers across his Twitter and Instagram channels combined, doesn’t think twice about posting items that bring awareness to issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.
“You could easily just sit on there and post things that don’t make any change… We’re all very fortunate to be in the position we’re in, I think we’re all really grateful for the position we’re in, and we’ve been through some things that we want to see changed, so using our platform I think is not even a question.”
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