Black hockey player brings out the ‘burning crosses’ on Twitter

Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Take a sport played predominantly by whites and followed by predominantly white fans, add a city with a racist reputation, and mix in some social media and you have the ugly result in Boston this week when the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins began their playoff series.

In game one, Montreal’s P.K. Subban, who is black, scored two goals, including the game winner in the second overtime against the Bruins, prompting a barrage of racist tweets.

Says Sports Illustrated Allan Muir:

It’s wildly unfair that they’re being painted with this broad brush, but there remains a shamefully large number of Bruins fans who were glad for the opportunity to share their hate. And it’s not like this was a one-off occurrence.

Fortunately, many others from Boston and around the hockey world chimed in with their disgust and embarrassment. But that doesn’t erase the shame.

Hate like that stains.

You have to wonder what Subban’s brother makes of this. Malcolm Subban is one of Boston’s top prospects and is being groomed to succeed Tuukka Rask at some point down the road. Every indication suggests this kid is mentally tough enough to push that noise to the background. But what if he decides after this that it’s not worth it?

Could anyone blame him if he wanted out?

Muir points out it’s not the first time the team’s fans brought out the racism when a black player beat their team.

“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,” Boston Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement yesterday.

It’s not just a “Boston thing,” the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley writes. But it’s “a thing.”

It’s everywhere. And it’s a little scary, to the point where we should take no comfort in the supposed knowledge that the authors of many of these racially tinged tweets are dim-bulb teenagers who lack the sophistication, the maturity — call it what you want — to understand the damage they are doing.

But we also need to be grown-ups about this: Boston has a troubling history of racial intolerance.

In 1959, the Boston Red Sox became the last big league team to promote a black player to the big leagues — more than a year after the Bruins welcomed Willie O’Ree as the NHL’s first black player. As for Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, the Sox’ first black player experienced backhanded racism by one of his own coaches until pitcher Bill Monbouquette, one of the unheralded heroes in race relations in Boston history, walked over and told the guy to button it.

“The only real good Neely’s statement did was to acknowledge those facts to a group of lowest common denominators that probably don’t care in the first place,” Sporting News writer Sean Gentille writes today.

Maybe, Boston can try to make up for them. The two teams play again today.