A day after NHL players banded together to postpone NHL playoff games for two days to protest social inequality, the New York Islanders are turning their calls for change into action.
All four Eastern Conference teams left battling in the playoffs were made available to the media on Friday, with the conversation focusing less on topics on the ice and more on how the players want to use their platforms for change away from the rink.
New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield said he is already working on ways to be more involved.
“We need to use (our platform) in a positive way. I’ve seen plenty of people use their platform in a negative way and that just needs to end,” Mayfield said. “For me, it’s about action. I’ve already reached out to our community relations director just about setting up things outside the rink. What we can do to start brainstorm ideas. Go into minority communities, stuff like that.”
In the 24 hours since the NHL joined the WNBA, NBA, teams in MLB and MLS, the players have spent the time reflecting on everything that has occurred in recent weeks and months, including the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday. The shooting renewed calls from various athletes and pro sports leagues for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.
“It’s really tough times right now,” Matt Martin said. “We just want everybody to feel included, everybody to feel safe. No matter the color of your skin, or sexual orientation, at the end of the day, we just want all forms of hate to be gone, for people to love each other and do what’s right.”
The Milwaukee Bucks became the first pro team to boycott playing on Wednesday, triggering the NBA to make the call to postpone play. The WNBA followers suit in solidarity with their NBA counterparts.
“There’s no playbook for this kind of thing. We’re learning & educating ourselves & trying to do what's right. I think everyone in this bubble is for equality & we want everyone to feel welcomed, not only in the game of hockey but in life.”
Martin & Mayfield speak to the media. pic.twitter.com/8KOdT1GMEB
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) August 28, 2020
“As soon as we kind of got word that some guys on the other side of the bubble not feeling comfortable playing we obviously wanted to stand behind our minority (players),” Martin said. “Stand behind the guys that are going through a tough time right now and didn’t feel comfortable going out there. … We’re trying to do what’s right and I think everyone in this bubble is for equality.
“We just want everyone to feel welcomed, not only in the game of hockey, but in life.”
NHL players have taken a notably louder stance on social issues in recent months. In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, several high profile players in the NHL voiced their support for the need for social change.
It has also forced the game to look inward and reassess how inclusive hockey is.
“Just hearing stories of young players that don’t feel safe, don’t feel included that’s something just needs to stop,” Mayfield said. “That just makes me sick because hockey is a place for everyone. It’s a place everyone should feel safe. Everyone should enjoy the game, love the game and love going to the rink.
“That’s another focus. We need to make the game a place that everyone is included.”
The Islanders and Flyers will pick up with their series on Saturday for Game 3, which was scheduled to take place on Thursday. Originally Game 4 was to take place Saturday afternoon, but with the postponement of Thursday and Friday’s games the NHL needed to readjust its schedule.
It’s unclear if the New York Islanders have anything planned ahead of Game 3 to bring awareness to racial and social injustice, but the team is well aware that this is bigger than a few days of not playing hockey.
“I think we all know us sitting out two days is not going to end racism,” Mayfield said. “What it does do is it brings dialogue. It brings awareness and it enables us to look in the mirror. Talk to each other and that’s what it’s started. It’s all about action now. It’s all about making sure we actually do things to combat issues in our game and in society.”
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