Bill Peters: An example showing how hockey has a long way to go

Photo via Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

It is becoming more frequent. Every time another allegation is brought up, it becomes more alarming, disturbing and disappointing. 

Bill Peters resigned from the Calgary Flames Friday morning after an investigation confirmed allegations of discrimination and racism to minority players. Allegations included making discriminatory remarks to forward Akim Aliu regarding music he listened to. Additionally, Peters refrained from using Aliu during the power-play or penalty kill, despite Aliu being one of the better scorers on the Rockford IceHogs during the 2009-2010 season when the allegations took place. 

The allegations did not stop there for Peters. While coaching the Carolina Hurricanes, allegations included physical abuse to players. 

The Calgary Flames thought they were hiring the missing piece that would light Calgary back to deep playoff runs and Stanley Cup Final berths reminiscent of the 1980s. Instead, they got an individual who, from past exploits, has been discriminatory. As a result, the Flames must go in another direction to right the ship for this season and beyond. 

With social media becoming a vital part of everyone’s lives, past comments have come back to bite certain individuals on those platforms, with the chief example being Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader. While he was pitching in his first All-Star game in 2018, discriminatory comments on his social media page from when he was a young teenager arose. Despite the incident occurring a year and a half ago, Hader has still had the aura around him. The aura of past actions coming back to the present. 

While Peters did not get exposed by a social media post from 2011, he did get exposed from something else that has become more abundant this decade because of social media: individuals speaking out. 

From numerous social movements over the last decade that have gained traction from increased social media usage, more individuals have become more confident to speak out regarding issues such as women’s rights, climate change, and racism. In the case of Aliu, he waited to speak out due to the possibilities of more playing time being held back from him. Nevertheless, he still spoke out, and as a result, Peters had to be held accountable for his actions.

There is another angle to this story that is telling. While Aliu spoke out against Peters, he waited years to do so out of fear that speaking out then would cost him his position and job. Despite the NHL doing more to make the sport more racially diverse, this information from Aliu shows that a lot still needs to be done before a sport like the NHL transforms to the level of inclusiveness it wants to be. 

This is the 21st century. The third decade of the millennium is slated to start in less than two months. Whether from a sport, organization or society perspective, there is no room for discriminatory remarks, regardless if they were said now or 10 years ago. One must take responsibility for actions or statements made regarding this at some point. Despite Bill Peters “apologizing” (to which Aliu responded as “misleading, insincere and concerning”), taking responsibility for his actions took form in the case of him resigning before he could get fired. 

For Peters, he will have to live with it. For other figures who have had incidents saying or displaying discriminatory behavior, they will have to live with it too when it inevitably comes back to bite them. 

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