Shortly after scoring the series-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins on April 25, Capitals forward Joel Ward was the target of racial slurs on Twitter. Ward is a Canadian raised in Toronto. His parents were originally from Barbados. The racially charged tweets began to appear just after Ward back-handed a rebound past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas at 2:57 of overtime. Dozens of the messages, several of which were graphic in nature and at least one containing a death threat, were aggregated and saved by websites such as Chirpstory, SB Nation and Capitals Outsider, among others. Several of the tweets have since been deleted.
"What these people have said and done is unforgivable. I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs," Caps owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his personal blog, Ted's Take. "There should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate mongering. Their messages should now stay glued into the algorithms to place a forever warning and a mark upon these people and their actions. They shouldn't be able to escape their keystrokes."
The National Hockey League (NHL) has 21 black or bi-racial players who ended the 2011-12 regular season. Ward is the only black player on the Capitals. The NHL is a league that has long been sensitive about its lack of diversity.
In September of last year, Philadelphia Flyers player Wayne Simmons -- who also grew up in Toronto and is a friend of Ward's -- was about to take a shoot-out attempt during a preseason game in London, Ontario. As he was approaching the puck, a spectator threw a banana peel on the ice.
There was no way to substantiate the number of racist tweets on April 25 that came from angry Bruins fans. However, the organization still released a statement denouncing them.
"The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night," the organization wrote in a statement. "These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization."
Last summer, the Capitals signed Ward, 31, to a $12 million contract. The Capitals went after Ward primarily because of his postseason heroics with the Nashville Predators last spring when he tallied seven goals and six assists in 12 playoff games.
"The racially charged comments distributed via digital media following last night's game were ignorant and unacceptable," the NHL wrote in an official statement, according to USA Today. The people responsible for these comments have no place associating themselves with our game."