'It's disgusting': Edmonton Oilers GM reacts to racist comments about Ethan Bear

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was sickened to find out racist messages about defenceman Ethan Bear were circulating online.

“It’s totally unacceptable and it’s disgusting,” he told reporters Wednesday.

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On Tuesday, Bear’s partner posted a message to social media denouncing racist comments towards the hockey player.

“To hide behind a screen is cowardly,” Lenasia Ned wrote. “But to use stereotypes against him an an Indigenous person is dehumanizing and awful!”

630 CHED has not seen the comments in question.

In a video shared on the Oilers’ Twitter feed, Bear issued a statement about being subjected to racist behaviour on social media.

“I know this doesn’t represent all Oilers fans or hockey fans, and I greatly appreciate your support and your love during this time,” he said.

“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,” Bear said.

“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’s no place for racism in our communities, in sports or in our workplace. I call on all of us to help make change and to end racism. We all deserve to be treated fairly. At the end of the day, I think we’ll get there.”

“Ethan’s an unbelievable young man,” Holland said. “He’s an amazing role model for all young athletes, especially Indigenous community. He gives time to the community, he’s popular in the locker room.”

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The comments came Monday and Tuesday after the Oilers were eliminated by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Ethan has broken countless barriers as an Indigenous man to make it to the NHL,” Ned wrote.

“He is human. We understand there is criticism, but there is no room for racism.”

Holland said he just learned about the comments before Wednesday’s news conference and planned to call Bear right after. He said he would tell Bear the organization supported him and was behind him.

In response to the racist comments, the hashtag #IStandWithEthan with messages from fans supporting Bear appeared Tuesday night.

Former Oilers captain Andrew Ferrance tweeted his support for Bear Tuesday night, saying Bear would be an “integral part of any success the Oilers have” if he is lifted up.

“The blatantly racist comments being posted on social media this week are disgusting and these individuals must take responsibility for the harm they are causing the sport and the First Nations community,” Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice Chief Heather Bear said in a statement Wednesday.

“My nephew is a strong man and a positive role model to so many people, but it hurts our community and our First Nations youth who read and see these comments online.”

Bear was drafted by the Oilers in the fifth round in 2015. He was the first NHL player to wear a jersey with his name written in Cree syllabics in 2020.

Holland described Bear as a hard worker, sharing a story where Bear was in the gym every morning during the summer working with the strength coach for a chance to compete for a spot on the Oilers roster.

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“He’s an incredible role model,” Holland said.

In a statement on Twitter, officials from the NHL said Bear represents both the game of hockey as well as his Indigenous heritage and he deserves “to feel empowered and respected on and off the ice.”

 

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