Monday, December 5, 2022

EDITORIAL: Big Ten must discipline racist acts and protect student-athletes of color

November 23, 2022
<p>Michigan State hockey before the second of a two game series against Ohio State, held at Munn Ice Arena on Nov 11, 2022. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 4-3.</p>

Michigan State hockey before the second of a two game series against Ohio State, held at Munn Ice Arena on Nov 11, 2022. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 4-3.

Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

During a Nov. 11 game at Munn Ice Arena, Michigan State University hockey senior forward Jagger Joshua was called racial slurs “multiple times” by an Ohio State University player. 

Joshua later released a statement urging the Big Ten Conference to take more action against the player. However, no further action was taken by them.

“Inaction in the face of racist comments and actions allow these behaviors to continue,” Joshua said in the statement.

In the statement, Joshua said that one of the officials heard the slur and gave the player, OSU senior forward Kamil Sadlocha, a game misconduct penalty. 

“I never communicated once to the ref that something was said – the ref heard it on his own, he reported it on his own and he handled it on his own,” Joshua said at a Tuesday press conference.

Only after receiving backlash from the hockey community following Joshua’s post did Ohio State‘s athletic director release a statement Tuesday night apologizing to Joshua and saying Sadlocha will no longer be with the team. 

Sadlocha has yet to apologize. 

“Over the last week, the Department of Athletics has worked through this on-ice incident and spoken with Kamil Sadlocha and the rest of the team, and Kamil is returning home and will not practice or compete at this time,” OSU AD Gene Smith said in the statement.

Monday night, the Big Ten released its own statement that said it “collected and evaluated” information from the Big Ten Conference ice hockey officiating crew, OSU, MSU and available video footage from the incident. 

“The conference supports the decision by the official to levy a game misconduct penalty on OSU,” Big Ten’s statement said. “Due to the absence of indisputable evidence presented to the conference, the conference has not imposed further disciplinary action.”

Since when is a referee’s call not “indisputable evidence?” Do you not trust your own officials, Big Ten?

The inaction by the Big Ten Conference is not only inexcusable but disgusting. A conference that is supposed to be dedicated to supporting student-athletes is instead allowing racism at one of its events to go unpunished.

The sport of hockey has had a deep-rooted history of racism, both at the collegiate and professional levels. 

First, there’s the recent incident where the Boston Bruins signed NHL prospect Mitchell Miller on Nov. 4, despite Miller’s history of abuse and racism towards Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black former classmate with learning disabilities, as reported by NHL.com. He was dropped from his contract days later amidst public outcry.

Then, there’s the incident where Bruce MacDonald, the color commentator for British Columbia junior hockey, was fired because he made a racist comment against 17-year-old Rivermen forward Owen Kim, who is of Asian descent, first reported by CBC News.

Additionally, Krystof Hrabik was suspended for 30 games for a racist gesture toward Boko Imama, who is Black, of the Tucson Roadrunners during a game in February, as reported by CNN.

What’s the difference between these and Joshua’s case? The racist comments were punished by the leagues in which they occurred.

“I've heard all types of language that discourages other kids like myself from playing, so it's definitely not just a one time thing, and that's where the problem is,” Joshua said at the press conference. “I think it's been a little too accepted in today's world.”

So where’s your dedication to “anti-racism,” Big Ten?

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On June 15, 2020, you created the Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition following the murder of George Floyd and national unrest over police brutality. 

The goal of the coalition was to look for ways to combat hate around the world while also encouraging student-athletes to express free speech and peacefully protest.

“The Big Ten Conference will be part of the solution as we actively and constructively combat racism and hate in our country,” a letter from Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said.

Where are the efforts to “actively and constructively” combat racism for Joshua, and for all the other African American or student-athletes of color that experience racism on a daily basis? Do your words mean nothing?

On Nov. 18, the University of Florida withdrew a scholarship offer from 2023 prospective quarterback Marcus Stokes after a video came out on social media of him using a racial slur while rapping to lyrics of a song. This is an example of “actively and constructively” combating racism.

However, Sadlocha remained on the ice, playing in two games last weekend against Notre Dame.

This punishment came almost two weeks after the original offense. Would OSU have disciplined Sadlocha if Joshua hadn’t stood up for himself?

Performative activism against racism has no place here. It’s time to be proactive and support the players of color in all sports across the conference.

Anything else is not enough. 

The State News Editorial Board consists of Editor-in-Chief SaMya Overall, Managing Editor Dina Kaur, Campus Editor Morgan Womack, City Editor Drew Goretzka, Culture Editor Miranda Dunlap, Sports Editor Sam Sklar, Multimedia Editors Devin Anderson-Torrez and Rahmya Trewern, Copy Chief Claire Grant, Social Media Manager Lauren Snyder, Staff Rep. Maddy Warren and Diversity Rep. Jada Vasser.



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