The Toronto Raptors honored the late Nelson Mandela on Friday night at an event called “The Giant of Africa.”On the first anniversary of his death, the South African president and human rights icon was celebrated throughout their game against the Cavaliers, from the team wearing special warm-up gear to videos throughout the night.
Perhaps Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier caught a few of those vignettes on the Jumbotron. Perhaps he then thought, “Holy [crap], I guess Nelson Mandela wasn’t a star athlete after all…”
Bernier was interviewed at the event, wearing a nice suit and supporting … well, someone he thought was a tremendous athlete he watched growing up.
The video was on the Raptors’ YouTube on Saturday before it was removed; Reddit user TeroTheTerror on r/Hockey provides a transcript:
Reporter1 (SportsNet mic): Alright Jonathan, how important is, uh, the legacy of Nelson Mandela to you?
JB: Well obviously he’s been, uh, a tremendous, uh, athlete and you know obviously what, uh, he means to all the sports you know when you know the worl- the world can uh be changed by the sports it’s pretty amazing. And I think he’s definitely uh got a lot of respect in every sports and uh he’s definitely one of the athletes I watched growing up as well.
Reporter1’s mic disappears from frame
Reporter2: Why is it important for you to come show support tonight?
JB: Well I think any good cause is, uh, sorry (he’s apologizing to someone to the left of the screen, not sure who/why), it’s always, uh, you know I love supporting, uh, any kind of cause obviously it’s for the Afri-, in Africa it’s obviously it’s, uh, a great cause, and enjoying, I guess, the basketball game.
Now, it’s possible that Bernier brain-farted and thought that the question was about one of the star athletes attending the event, like Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. Although the question clearly asked about Nelson Mandela.
And in fairness, Mandela was a tremendous athlete: an amateur boxer who ran two hours a day. And he did believe the world could change thanks to sports.
But, um, we’re pretty sure Bernier didn’t grow up watching Nelson Mandela play sports. Then again, he was only 70 years old when Bernier was born. And, like Jagr’s still playing, so anything’s possible.