I recently came across an article about a hockey commentator who is facing widespread criticism for making fun of a player’s name during last night’s game between the Golden Knights and Oilers.
Commentator John Anderson said: “13 minutes to go, we’re in the second. Zach Whitecloud, what kind of name is Whitecloud? Great name if you’re a toilet paper. His first goal of the playoffs.”
Zach Whitecloud is a defenseman for the Vegas Golden Knights. He is also the first NHL player from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.
Unsurprisingly given today’s climate of political correctness, Anderson was widely criticized on social media, and as a result apologized profusely. In response, Whitecloud said he hoped the situation could be a ‘learning experience for everyone.”
The question that immediately comes to my mind is: would the public reaction have been the same, and would Anderson have issued the same apology, if Whitecloud was of European descent?
The presumption behind the article, and behind the social media criticism of Anderson, seems to be that Anderson’s comment was insensitive, offensive, and wrong because he was making fun of an indigenous name.
Not that making fun of people’s names is wrong, period.
Not that people should be kind and respectful to others as a general rule.
But rather that Anderson should have known that Whitecloud was indigenous and therefore should have refrained from poking fun at him.
Personally, I found the joke mildly amusing.
If you want to take the position that people should never make jokes about others’ names, because doing so isn’t nice, that is reasonable.
But I don’t get the sense that Anderson’s critics are taking that position. I get the sense that double standards are in play here, that people are bashing Anderson so harshly because he had the audacity to poke fun at a player who is indigenous. I highly doubt that people would have been similarly outraged – or outraged at all for that matter – if a European player had been made fun of.
If you’re going to criticize Anderson for making fun of Whitecloud’s name, do so because making fun of people’s names isn’t a nice thing to do. Don’t do so just because Whitecloud happens to be indigenous.