Wild’s Matt Dumba continues to combat racism with new initiative
The Hockey Diversity Alliance recently partnered with with Budweiser Canada to launch the #TapeOutHate campaign.
In the span of a week and a half, Matt Dumba has seen firsthand both the progress the NHL has made and the work still left to be done.
As a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance , an organization founded last year with the goal of eradicating racism from the sport, Dumba proudly sported customized tape on his stick before the Jan. 8 game against the Washington Capitals. His teammates followed suit during warmups.
It was a part of the #TapeOutHate campaign put on by the Hockey Diversity Alliance in conjunction with Budweiser Canada. The hope is to inspire change at a grassroots level with words like “RACISM HAS NO PLACE IN HOCKEY” plastered on the tape itself.
“We are so grateful and humbled that we are getting this type of response,” Dumba said. “It’s super cool to see. To have white players’ support is huge because of demographics and how the game is.”
But Dumba witnessed the other side of the spectrum on Jan. 17 after a game against the Colorado Avalanche. In that game, his teammate Jordan Greenway inadvertently ran goaltender Darcy Kuemper, a sequence that angered opposing fans.
On the bus after the game, Dumba sat alongside Greenway as various racial slurs flooded his direct messages on social media.
“We are sitting on the bus, like, ‘Look at how stupid this is. This is ridiculous,’ ” Dumba said. “That’s how real it is every day.”
This extends beyond sports. It’s the reality people of color push through on a daily basis.
As much as there has been tangible change in the past year and a half, with more people starting to take action, the truth is, racism has and always will exist in some form.
As a kid, Dumba couldn’t do anything to stop it. Now he has a platform to make a difference.
“This is us standing up for our 12-year-old selves, our future kids, the next generation,” Dumba said. “There’s no reason why a kid needs to feel that the color of his skin determines whether or not he is suitable or can play the game of hockey. And that’s what it’s been for too long.”
This summer Dumba gathered with other members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance in Toronto.
The meeting was set up by Budweiser Canada in an effort to spark dialogue that could be used in a commercial for the #TapeOutHate campaign.
The open and honest conversation that followed was more than anyone expected.
“They gave us a couple of points to talk about, and we just started chopping it up,” Dumba said. “I think it was (supposed to be) like 30 to 45 minutes to shoot it and we carried on talking for an hour and a half.”
The commercial features Dumba sitting in a circle with retired hockey player Akim Aliu, Anthony Duclair of the Florida Panthers, Nazem Kadri of the Avalanche, and Wayne Simmonds of the Toronto Maple Leafs, each person talking about their experience within the sport that so often pushed them away when they were young.
There were powerful moments throughout the commercial, including the display of various racial slurs that members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance have encountered throughout their careers. There were also some poignant exchanges between the players that really hit home.
“Why would you want your kid to ever experience something like that?” Dumba asked the group during the commercial. “Would you put them in hockey?”
“If I knew she was going to have to face the same thing I faced, probably not,” Simmonds replied. “At the same time, I want her to be able to do what she loves.”
It was the first time Dumba could remember talking to other players in such a public forum. He has had many such conversations behind the scenes. Never in front of a camera.
“For us to have a conversation like that, so open and vulnerable, I don’t know if any of us had really dove in like that,” Dumba said. “You can talk forever about it because it’s been going on for so long. You can add some more bodies to that conversation. You can add guys who have played further in the past. You can add maybe some younger kids going through it. That’s our goal: To get people talking about it.”
As far as Dumba is concerned, he has gotten to a point in his life where he can deal with the nasty things keyboard warriors put out into the universe.
He’s not thinking about himself when he’s opening up about the racism he’s experienced. He’s thinking about the 10-year-old who recently downloaded social media for the first time and has to deal with name-calling from peers.
“You’re getting harassed online and getting harassed at the rink,” Dumba said. “It doesn’t feel like a safe place. Why would kids want to show up to the rink? There’s a sense of loneliness.”
That’s why the #TapeOutHate campaign is so impactful. It’s important for kids to see to see words like “RACISM HAS NO PLACE IN HOCKEY” being proudly displayed by players at the highest level.
“That’s a great part of it,” Dumba said. “Whenever anyone sees the tape, it’s spreading that awareness and creating another potential conversation. I think the hockey world is doing such a great job, and we are thankful that they have picked it and supported it the way they have.”
As for the tape itself, it’s been so popular that Dumba joked that members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance can’t even get their hands on it right now.
“It’s jumping off the shelves,” he said. “We had some rolls shipped to us and the boys all used it for warmups. I was so proud. Just knowing that my teammates are supporting me and taking the time to ask and understand what it is.
“I explained it to the boys and showed them the videos. That was the talk of the locker room and guys were awesome wanting to back it and support it and put it out there. I’m really grateful for the kind of teammates that I have.”
From the moment Dumba took a knee for the national anthem before a game on Aug. 1 2020, doing so after giving an emotional speech about fighting racism within the sport, he became the face of a movement.
Though he has had lot of support along the way, especially from other members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Dumba has been among the most vocal players about the need for change throughout the NHL.
That experience has been empowering for Dumba. Especially after feeling like an outcast as a kid, always trying to blend in, never trying to stick out. That way of thinking followed him to the NHL early in his career.
In the past couple of years, though, Dumba has grown more comfortable in his own skin. Even if it looks different than some of his peers.
In a perfect world, Dumba hopes the #TapeOutHate campaign, as well as some of the other initiatives the Hockey Diversity Alliance is taking on at the grassroots level, encourages kids to be more accepting from a young age.
“I don’t think anyone is (born) racist or angry or hateful,” Dumba said. “You learn it somewhere. There’s a sense of ignorance that comes with being a kid and finding a way. I think helping out with education programs and stuff like that, and teaching kids right from wrong, is a huge step in it all.”
It’s a step in the right direction. Now the marathon continues.
“Our mission statement with the (Hockey Diversity Alliance), to eradicate racism in the game, that’s no small task,” Dumba said. “Yes, it was taken on by us seven, eight, nine of us at the start. Now it’s grown. We have so many different parts of it and it’s still so fresh.
“We have to find pieces of the puzzle and what makes this whole organization come together and run seamlessly. It isn’t the easiest. But we are figuring it out and getting more people involved, which is awesome.”