Las Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud scored his first goal of the playoffs on Monday, but he didn't have much time to celebrate the team's 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers before it was quickly overshadowed.
After Vegas' victory in game three of the second round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN announcer John Anderson undercut the win with a joke about Whitecloud's name that fans have since decried as insensitive and racist.
"Zach Whitecloud, what kind of name is Whitecloud? Great name if you're a toilet paper," he remarked during a postgame SportsCenter segment.
\u201cDuring the Vegas-Edmonton highlight on SportsCenter, John Anderson jokes about Zach Whitecloud's name, saying it's a "great name if you're a toilet paper."\n\nWhitecloud is the first Indigenous NHL player from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.\u201d— Awful Announcing (@Awful Announcing) 1683634370
Whitecloud is a member of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, and the first of his nation to play in the NHL. He and his family have been vocal about their pride in the achievement and the representation it brings to professional hockey.
Less than 24 hours later, Anderson issued an apology in a statement to Ben Gotz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, saying he was not aware of Whitecloud's heritage.
“This is totally on me and I sincerely apologize to Zach, the Golden Knights, their fans and everyone else for what I said," Anderson said. "It’s my job to be prepared and know the backgrounds of the players and I blew it. I will be reaching out to the team to personally apologize and hope to have the opportunity to speak to Zach as well.”
On Tuesday, Whitecloud confirmed that Anderson had reached out to him, and that he had accepted his apology. To the defenseman, Anderson's remarks were a teachable moment not just for the announcer, but for the fans and larger NHL audience.
"I think it was an attempt at humor that came out as being obviously insensitive, and he acknowledges that," Whitecloud said. "He understands that it was wrong to say. I wanted to make sure he knew that I accepted his apology. People make mistakes, and this is a scenario where not just John but everyone can learn from and move forward in a positive direction and try to be better."
\u201c\ud83c\udfa5 Zach Whitecloud speaks on his pride for his heritage. \ud83e\udde1\u201d— z - Vegas Golden Knights (@z - Vegas Golden Knights) 1683666400
Whitecloud seemed to get emotional while speaking to reporters, tearing up as he continued.
"I'm proud of my culture. I'm proud of where I come from and where I was raised, who I was raised by. I carry my grandfather's last name, and nothing makes me more proud than to be able to do that," Whitecloud said. "In our culture, we were raised to be the first ones to reach out and offer help, so that's why I reached out to John this morning."
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