Braden Holtby has never been shy about supporting those who face discrimination.
But the Washington Capitals goalie took a different approach this time by using Twitter to speak out against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Prior to posting his statement Wednesday, Holtby hadn’t put anything on Twitter in more than three years.
“A lot of the reason that I don’t go on social media too often is I think it’s flooded with people saying things before thinking, before truly believing in the words they said,” Holtby said Friday. “I’ve been thinking about what to say for over a week and trying for it to resonate to the black community of what I believe the white community should take responsibility for. And I don’t think this time is a time to sugarcoat anything.
“I think it’s a time to look at ourselves in the mirror and really find how we can be better and how we can take responsibility for the past and learn from that to move forward.”
In his statement, Holtby made an impassioned plea against “inhumane, hate-based, racial crimes that have been committed in the centuries of American history.” He also vowed to do whatever he can to support those fighting against racial inequality.
“As a person who definitely falls into the white privileged category, I know I will truly never know what it’s like to walk in a black man’s shoes,” Holtby wrote. “But I know I have arms, and ears, and a voice to walk beside and listen to every word of anguish and give my strength to every black man, woman or child until their shoes weigh the same as mine.”
Holtby, the Capitals’ Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador, has long been an advocate for human rights. Ardent supporters of the LGBTQ community, he and his wife, Brandi, have participated in Washington’s annual Capital Pride Parade three of the past four years. He missed the event in 2018 when the Capitals were in the Stanley Cup Final.
Holtby is pleased to see he’s not the only player speaking up now. Capitals teammates Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and Tom Wilson also have joined the chorus of white NHL players, including Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler, San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who have taken to social media to call for change and express their support for black players who have spoken out, such as Sharks forward Evander Kane and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, and the entire black community.
NHL players don’t often speak out on social issues, but Holtby hopes the reaction to Floyd’s death signals a change going forward.
“I think it’s getting better,” he said. “I think the more we follow the true leaders — if you look at what Jonny Toews did, people follow guys like that. I think we’re obviously behind as a sport. I think everyone’s realizing that, and the true personalities are going to show through as long as we keep pushing it.”
Floyd’s death sparked demonstrations in cities across the United States, including in Washington, and led to a white police officer being charged with second-degree murder and the three other officers on the scene being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
With the NHL season on pause due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Holtby said he has tried to watch the demonstrations on television as much as he can and to learn as much as he can about the issues.
The Holtbys have also tried to explain what’s been going on to their 8-year-old son, Benjamin, and 6-year-old daughter, Belle. He said his parents did similar for him when he was growing up in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
“We’re honest about that to our kids,” Holtby said “They ask questions, we don’t try to sugarcoat it. We try and explain it as best we can so they grow up with that knowledge to do something with. … It wasn’t until I moved here that you really understand what racial injustice is in this country. In Canada, we have indigenous rights and racism that way. I grew up around that, but this is different, so I needed to educate myself and still need to.”
Holtby said he and his wife are still formulating their plan to put their words into action. They want to make a lasting impression with whatever they do.
“I don’t believe in a one stop type of thing,” he said. “I believe in supporting causes or organizations that are going to do good for a long time. Brandi and I have kind of focused more on the human rights campaign in the past because it hit a wide spectrum for us dealing with LGBTQ issues and racial issues the main two things.
“But as we learn more, as we see the world changing in front of us, we’re looking into trying to find different options as well as sticking with that to just really make sure that we’re finding ways to do all we can and try to do our part as much we can.”