It’s not clear why Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby declared he “couldn’t find the words to say” about what he felt regarding the movement around the United States activated by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Because the short essay he presented Wednesday on Twitter sent a clear message about longstanding injustice.
Holtby, a Canada native who has played for the Capitals since 2010 and led them to a Stanley Cup in 2018, made note of the Woodrow Wilson bridge that stretches between Northern Virginia and Maryland’s Prince George’s County, the second-largest county in the state and one of the most affluent counties in the nation whose population is majority African-American.
“Here a monstrous bridge stands, named after a racist president,” Holtby wrote. “A president who was an outspoken white supremacist. Who segregated Federal workers based on race. The bridge sits there mocking every black person who has to travel across it while reading that name as a reminder of how much pain has been inflicted on their race.
“And yet, the society that has inflicted that pain seems proud of it. Proud enough to name a bridge in a white supremacist’s honor.”
— Braden Holtby (@Holts170) June 3, 2020
Holtby plays in a sport with relatively few people of color. Wikipedia lists 30 black players currently active in the NHL out of roughly 690 on the league’s 31 teams. Given that the same list indicates that there have been 91 in the league’s history, having a third of them currently playing seems at least marginal process. Winger Devante Smith-Pelly, who spent the 2019-20 season playing professionally for a Chinese club in Russia’s KHL, lifted the Cup with Holtby on that same night in June 2018.
There still have been issues, though, as there’ve been outside the rink. Former Flames winger Akim Aliu wrote about his dreadful experiences in The Players Tribune.
Holtby was addressing a larger picture, though, when he continued on to address what he observes in everyday society.
“The injustice and hatred-infused power we’ve seen recently is anything but new,” Holtby wrote. “To say there’ve been improvements is very naïve. In today’s age of information and communication at our fingertips, the change is far too minimal. The amount of inhumane, hate-based racial crimes that have been committed in the centuries of American history is enough to make your skin crawl in discomfort and your eyes well with tears.”
Holtby acknowledged that he cannot fully understand the experience of being a black man in America. But he pledged to use his voice to support “every black man, woman or child until their shoes weigh the same as mine.”
Holtby wrote that he was proud of those marching on behalf of racial justice, and that he was not alone in this.
“You’re bringing pride to every person who believes in the universal value of a human being. Keep fighting, and I vow to demonstrate and educate what you are fighting for,” he wrote. “Not only to myself but to my children, family and anyone else who will listen. Because America will never be great until all BLACK lives matter.”