ESPN anchor Anderson apologizes for mocking Vegas defenceman Whitecloud's name
ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor John Anderson apologized to Zach Whitecloud, a First Nation member in Canada, on Tuesday after comparing the Vegas Golden Knights defenceman's last name to toilet paper the previous night.
Whitecloud told reporters in Edmonton that he spoke with Anderson on Tuesday morning.
“I think it was an attempt at humour 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 for.”
Anderson's comments came while narrating Whitecloud scoring in the Knights' 5-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. Vegas leads the series 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night in Edmonton.
“What kind of name is Whitecloud?” Anderson asked during the highlights. “A great name if you're a toilet paper.”
Whitecloud is the first member of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to play in the NHL.
“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 in a statement. “It’s my job to be prepared and know the backgrounds of the players and I blew it.”
While speaking to reporters, Whitecloud became emotional when talking about his background.
“I'm proud of my culture,” Whitecloud said. “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. 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.”
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said she was disheartened by Anderson's comments.
“We hope that ESPN and the NHL officials use these disappointingly racist incidents as opportunities to address racism and prejudice that continue to exist in hockey today,” Merrick said in a statement. “NHL players, officials, and sports broadcasters should lead the industry standard for modelling honourable sportsmanship. Zach’s acceptance of John Anderson’s apology demonstrates incredible strength and sportsmanship, an example that the NHL should take note of.”
This is the second time in less than a week a U.S. sports announcer made news over a comment.
Last week, Oakland Athletics announcer Glen Kuiper appeared to mispronounce “negro” during the pre-game show on NBC Sports California when talking about a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Kuiper apologized during the A's-Kansas City Royals broadcast “if it sounded different than I meant it to be said.”
NBC Sports California suspended Kuiper the next day.
MARK ANDERSON, The Canadian Press