Partaking in the festivities that celebrate the Stanley Cup playoffs on Canadian soil is considered by many to be an incredibly thrilling experience. However, not all Canadians feel at ease during these events, particularly those who belong to the country's marginalized communities. Winnipeg's Whiteout street parties are especially troubling for some, who say that even the name of the event is problematic.
This happens to be the case for populations of racial minorities in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jets' Whiteout street parties may seem like nothing more than a mere demonstration of homegrown hockey spirit. But to countless Winnipeggers, these events represent a much more threatening image of white supremacy, CBC reports.
Winnipeg's street parties take place on blocked-off streets around Bell MTS Place during home playoff games. Just last night, Winnipeg Police detained multiple Whiteout party-goers for public intoxication after several fights broke out. Thankfully, no major injuries were reported.
Alexa Potashnik, the founder of Black Space Winnipeg, a non-profit organization that advocates for Winnipeg's black community, posted an announcement on the group's Facebook page prior to the Jets' first 2019 Stanley Cup playoff game. Within her message, she advised that the name of the Jets' Whiteout playoff party be modified to be more inclusive.
She also included an image accompanied by the caption: "Have a look at these photos from past Jets pandemonium/fan appreciation. The four men wearing all white Jets outfits with pointed hoodies … remind you of anything?"
Winnipeg's Whiteout street parties date back to 1987 when Jets fans countered the Calgary Flames' Sea of Red during the stretch of the playoffs. Back in the day, the Jets' home colours were white - now, they are polar night blue. Despite the passing of over 30 years, Winnipeggers stick to the tradition of wearing white during the city's hockey parties.
Potashnik explained to the CBC, "I get the colour context 100 percent, but it's the culture that we're talking about. It's the wording we're critiquing." She was referring to a headline that called for the Jets to turn downtown Winnipeg "white again" with the return of the playoffs.
She added, "It's triggering for some people. For marginalized communities — whether that's black communities, Indigenous people of colour, folks with disabilities, queer communities, it impacts us all."
It should be noted that Potashnik is not requesting fans boycott the parties. In fact, she even commented that she's attended the parties herself, and recognizes how fun they can be. But she also witnesses fans spewing racial slurs and racist humour as she parties among the crowds. "We're just saying, how can we make these parties so that everyone feels safe? That's the biggest thing."
Emotional safety is at the core of Potashnik's concern; a growing emphasis on changing the culture and tone of the event's marketing is key to making all fans feel welcome. "People have a very narrow definition of what safe is," Potashnik told CBC, explaining that her Facebook post "hit a nerve." It has nearly 1,000 comments already.
Not all of the feedback received from Potashnik's post has been positive, however. Some Facebook users accuse her of being a hypocrite because her organization has the word "black" in its name. Others have commented that the post is a stupid publicity stunt and a pathetic attempt at outrage.
One comments reads, "White out has NOTHING to do with race, culture and definitely not orientation. It has ONLY to do with sports and support of a local teams success. STOP being self focused and try to be yourself inclusive, to accept the simple idea of supporting a sports team and wishing them success. It's not about you!"
Another claims, "This is about the sport and bringing fans together as a collective because that's the color of our jerseys! Why don't you focus your time and energy on something that ACTUALLY matters instead of using this as another opportunity to try to get attention."
Regardless of how social media users are interpreting the post, it successfully accomplished its original objective to get people talking.
One commenter wrote, "Thank you for speaking up, can never hurt to try to be a bit more sensitive at least about wording and how we carry and present ourselves, good luck in your campaign."
Potashnik explained, "The folks who are anti what we're doing and very defensive are people, I think, who are scared of change. We just want to have a conversation. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
The whirlwind of controversy generated by the post has ultimately caused Potashnik to feel both hopeful and proud, because "hopefully, this will get people to think in a new way."