Trevor Ziegler comments on race in athletics.

I usually tend to try to avoid keeping up with the latest twitter beef and other social media controversies. Why? Because its petty and stupid and I really don’t care about what some idiot with a computer in Eastbumfuck, Idaho has to say about…anything really.

But something happened last night that I simply couldn’t ignore. Something that hit so close to home that I felt compelled to share my thoughts in hopes to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future. Im sure it won’t. In fact, somewhere on the internet it’s probably going on right now. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Last night the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in dramatic fashion. Now I hardly consider myself to be a hockey fan but seeing as I’m from the Baltimore/Washington area and currently reside in Massachusetts, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to this series. And this series was certainly an exciting one that did not disappoint. The game ultimately ended with Capitals’ Right Wing Joel Ward scoring the go-ahead goal in Overtime to seal the win for the Caps.

Following the game I headed to Twitter to see the the anguished tweets of all my Bruins-supporting friends which made for a good laugh. What I did not expect to see was a racial-fueled onslaught of tweets directed at the game’s star, Joel Ward (seen here:

You see, Joel Ward isn’t just a hockey player in the NHL, he’s a black hockey player in the NHL, and apparently some of the Bruins’ fanbase isn’t too keen on that. As I read through some of these tweets, I couldn’t help but to be reminded of my experiences of being a black competitive swimmer. Much like Joel Ward, I was good. And much like Joel Ward, I saw my fair share of people who had a problem with a black person excelling in a predominantly white sport.

It sucks that all the hard work any talented athlete puts into elevating their game to a higher level can easily be overshadowed by some idiots that have a problem with what they look like or what they represent. When you’re black and you’re a hockey player or swimmer, you’re not just a hockey player. You’re not a swimmer. You’re a BLACK hockey player or a BLACK swimmer. Google Joel Wards name and the top results aren’t about highlighting his Game 7 heroics, they all mention the racial backlash that occurred on Twitter moments after the game.

A great moment in sports, the closest playoff series in the history of the NHL, won’t be known for the hockey anymore. It will be forever tarnished with the backlash that came from a some hateful “fans”.

I will always be known as the “black kid” that swam for my school. Sure, I put some records on the board and helped my team win some conference championships, but I will always be the black swimmer. Now, I’m not putting my team down, I loved my team and every moment spent competing with them. I just know that I will most likely always be remembered for this fact.

I think it’s a shame that people still put such an emphasis on race in scenarios such as this. In my case, and Im sure in the case of Joel’s, I was just a kid that had an immense passion for a sport I excelled at. I wasn’t out there to prove black people could swim or change race relations or anything. I just wanted to compete and I wanted to win. I did everything in my power to win and it was so frustrating when my hard work was cast aside for some stupid label because not a lot of people that looked like me did my sport. Its like an entertainer trying to shake a previous gimmick from the minds of his/her fans but will always be known a specific way regardless of their efforts to make legitimate art.

One of the most poignant examples I have of this is the nickname conjured up by our rival team my Junior year of college. A couple weeks before our big conference meet my team got wind of the nickname. My last name is Ziegler and apparently they were calling me “Ziggler the Niggler”. Real fucking creative, assholes. Still, to this day, the nickname stirs some anger in me but i’ve learned to laugh off petty insults like this because theres no point in getting butthurt every time some dummy calls you a mean name. And guess what, we beat the hell out of them that year and the next year so I guess thats the best form of retaliation.

The point I’m trying to make is: WHO FUCKING CARES what we look like? If the talent’s there, if the dues have been paid, isn’t that enough? I’m so sick of walking around with all these unwritten rules and expectations that I am supposed to abide by. I’m black but guess what I like rock music (gasp). I like folk. But I love hip hop too. In fact, I listen to whatever the fuck I think is good. Who are you to tell me what I should and shouldn’t like? I played many sports as a child: swimming, baseball, basketball, soccer, and I happened to choose the one I loved the most. Not the one I was supposed to be good at.

Play by your own fucking rules and don’t let some ill-informed, jealous assholes dictate how your own individual happiness can be achieved. That is all.