A young hockey player who was racially abused on the ice calls for more education in the sport

A young hockey player shares his experience of racism on the ice in hopes it will spark more discussion and education around race in the sports community.

Earlier this season, 16-year-old Zaya Morro of Courtenay, B.C., was called a racial slur on the ice after a hit.

“It completely caught me off guard,” he said.

He said players in his league often ‘twittered’ at each other – the practice of chit-chatting an opponent to annoy and distract them – but nothing quite as bad had happened in his 10 years. game of hockey.

Zaya said he and his team captain reported it to the referee, who ejected the other player from the game and assured Zaya that an investigation would be launched immediately.

But Zaya and her mother, Kristy Morro, were disappointed with BC Hockey’s response.

The league said it began investigating the matter as soon as it was made aware of the situation, ‘soon’ after it occurred – but added it was unable to to comment on the case or provide details of the outcome of the investigation, as it involves minors.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, BC Hockey said it took “disciplinary and educational” action that was “appropriate and fair.”

But Morro said she had to contact the league several times to see action, and she and Zaya did not feel taken seriously.

“It was more about giving the benefit of the doubt to the player who said the word and not to the victim who it was said to,” Morro said.

Since the incident, Zaya said he had become a more reserved player and feared that if he got physical he might encounter more hate – something he is not ready to experience again.

Morro said she also heard comments about her son from relatives in the stands.

“We heard that Zaya was playing completely normal, not even aggressively, and we hear, ‘oh, the little black guy has a temper,'” she said.

Zaya says he hopes parents and coaches will speak to players about respect and discrimination in light of his experience. (Submitted by Kristy Morro)

“This shouldn’t be a conversation people avoid”

Zaya is now calling for better education about discrimination – both formally through leagues and schools, but also between parents and their children.

“This shouldn’t be a conversation that people avoid,” Zaya said.

He would have liked to see the player who insulted him take an anti-racism course.

“If you understand how other people feel about it, you’ll understand why not do it,” he said.

Ultimately, Zaya said, he chose to make the story public to educate and ensure it didn’t happen to other players of color.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone, and even if it does, I would like people to speak up rather than have to hide,” he said. “I want people to be sure that if they speak up, something will happen.”

BC Hockey CEO Cam Hope agrees that addressing racism in sport must remain the top priority for everyone involved.

“It seems absurd that in 2022 our society is still grappling with racism (and all the attitudes that create barriers to inclusion), not to mention the fact that those attitudes and actions are still impacting sport” , Hope said in a statement.

“Yet we continue to see examples. So fighting for a better, safer and more inclusive sporting landscape is a challenge that we must all accept.”

“I’ve been in this game for a long time and I see improvements, but we can’t slow down our efforts.”

Hockey Canada recently implemented a national incident tracking system and updated the abuse section in its regulations.

It now stipulates that any player who uses verbal taunts, insults or intimidation based on discriminatory grounds, such as the uttering of racial slurs, will be given a serious misconduct sanction – which, according to British Columbia Hockeycould result in a suspension of at least five games.

A Hockey Canada spokesperson said the organization is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all players.

“Together with our members, we will continue to explore opportunities to address these issues at all levels of the game,” he said in an email to CBC News.

Catherine J. Martinez