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Florida Panthers kick off Black History Month with stand against racism

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Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar wears a team-issued t-shirt denouncing racism on the first day of Black History Month Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

NEW YORK — To kick off Black History Month, the Florida Panthers wore shirts that read ‘We Stand Against Racism’ before their game with the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

It was one of the many things the Panthers have planned to celebrate Black History Month.

“It was an awesome initiative by the whole organization,” Anthony Duclair said. “Bill Zito came up to me a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to do it and I said ‘yeah, I’m on board.’

“This was the first time in my career and NHL team has come up to me and asked me to do anything about Black History Month, so I really appreciate that from the management standpoint.”

Duclair is no stranger to being on the frontlines in the fight against racism.

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The 26-year-old forward is a founding member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which aims to end racism in the sport of hockey.

He recently appeared in a powerful TV spot promoting stick tape that reads ‘Racism has no place in Hockey.’

The Panthers then wrapped their stick blades with the tape during warmups prior to their game on Jan. 14 against the Dallas Stars.

“It’s a great cause and [Duclair] does a wonderful job donating his time and effort to do a unique and special thing and I’m proud of him for it,” Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette said.

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Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair walks to the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday evening. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

The celebration of Black history in the sport of hockey is important.

Especially now.

Last month, two different players in both the ECHL and AHL were suspended for making a racial gesture at an opposing Black player.

Both are on a laundry list of racist issues that have plagued the sport for decades.

“I have a platform and I try to do my best to use that to the best of my abilities to help the younger generation understand what Black people and minorities go through day in and day out,” Duclair said. “I try my best to be a good role model.”

Duclair said the rest of his teammates have bought in and are want to be partners in the cause.

“The boys have really stepped up and have been really great allies,” Duclair said.

“We talked about Black History Month and I think the best thing you can do is educate yourself. I think once you educate yourself you can really know what’s been doing on and you can really empathize with us minorities.”

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