What if hockey appealed to black fans? Would fighting go away?
Writing on GQ, Mark Anthony Green this week mulls the cultural acceptance that fighting in hockey enjoys.
Despite continuing claims that hockey is trying to get fighting out of hockey, any hockey fan knows nothing can be further from the truth. Hockey fans love a good fight.
Why does hockey get a pass? Green says it’s mostly because it’s played by white people and enjoyed by white people.
Let’s start by considering the heavy dethugification of the NBA and NFL over the last two decades. Sure, there was sensible push back certain changes, like the dress code, because of racial undertones (Exhibit A: an image of Allen Iverson wearing a 8XL t-shirt and Titanic-shaming diamond chain courtside).
But community activists, players and coaches, league officials and journalists — most looked at the changes as positive. Professionalism being the most common and most comforting justification. Cam Newton kicks a defensive tackle and he’s fined $10k.
Kobe Bryant calls a referee a faggot and he’s fined $100k. For the last 15 years or so sports fans collectively felt they shouldn’t have done those things so, yeah, they should pay.
Even in a sporting world where boxing is accepted, hockey fighting seems too far. Boxers, well, box—which is very different than slugging someone bare-knuckled in the face until they fall down. It’s a sport rooted in discipline. Floyd Mayweather has more of a kung-fu, monk-like mind-set in the ring than that of a brawler. Not to mention, the physicality isn’t some random outburst of violence.
Boxing is sport, hockey fighting is fighting. Boxing in no way resembles that 4 a.m. bar fight.
So why should hockey players be able to physically, brutally fight? Let’s table the fact that numerous studies have shown hockey fighting can lead to brain damage. Or that players like Mike Peluso, who fought 179 times in his NHL career, are currently seeking damages from the league for the apparent concussion-related seizures and depression caused from fighting on the ice.
How many others suffer from fighting-related health issues who aren’t suing? The sports argument of whether it’ll augment the feel of the game or ruin the tradition. Table that argument because such defenses wouldn’t exist if hockey were watched or played by African-Americans.
“When violent action is labeled as acceptable the question then becomes: What exactly is America afraid of? The punch being thrown or the person throwing the punch?” he writes.