Oilers' Ethan Bear: 'I've been subject to racist behaviour on social media'
EDMONTON -- Indigenous Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear says he has received racist messages on social media.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Bear's girlfriend, Lenasia Ned, wrote "Ethan has received numerous racist messages and comments.
"To hide behind a screen is cowardly. But to use stereotypes against him as an Indigenous person is dehumanizing and awful!!"
It's not clear how many messages were posted or on what platforms.
Bear, who has been with the team since 2018, grew up in the Ochapowace First Nation in Saskatchewan.
"I've been subject to racist behaviour on social media," Bear said in a video statement at Rogers Place on Wednesday.
"I'm here to stand up to this behaviour, to these comments. I'm proud of where I come from. I'm proud to be from Ochapowace First Nation.
"I'm not just doing this for myself, I'm doing this for all people of colour. I'm doing this for the next generation to help make change, to love one another, to support one another, to be kind to each other. There's no place for racism in our communities, in sports, or in our workplace."
Bear's girlfriend also appeared on the video.
"Me and Ethan are wanting to use our platform as a way to make a shift in young Indigenous and children of colour's experiences growing up so they don't have to endure what we had to experience," Ned said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Oilers released a statement that said, in part:
"The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club is disappointed in these disgusting, cowardly and racist remarks. While we have witnessed progress in the area of equality and inclusion, this reprehensible behaviour demonstrates we still have significant work to do. Ethan Bear is an incredibly skilled hockey player and a beloved teammate. His community-minded efforts both here in Edmonton and in Saskatchewan represent the qualities any organization could possibly ask of its members."
Team general manager Ken Holland called Bear "an unbelievable young man" during a news conference earlier that day.
"He's a tremendous role model for all young athletes, especially the Indigenous community."
Oilers captain Connor McDavid stood in solidarity with his teammate and posted a statement on Twitter Wednesday night calling the comments “not acceptable.”
“The individuals who spew this type of hate, should think twice about their behaviour. Ethan is such a positive role model for the Ochapowace First Nation and does so much amazing work in our local Edmonton community.”
The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations also issued a statement in support of Bear.
"Our First Nations people are avid fans of hockey and the Edmonton Oilers, and we are most proud of the athletic achievements of our people," wrote Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker.
"Ethan has been a gracious ambassador to our youth, and he is very much a part of our communities."