Jaccob Slavin‘s view of the world, particularly when it comes to racism, changed the day the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman and his wife, Kylie, adopted their 1-year-old daughter, Emersyn, in 2019.
Jaccob and Kylie are white. Emersyn is Black.
“It’s different now that I’m living it and experiencing it,” Slavin said Friday. “I wasn’t fully aware of everything that was going on around the world. I knew that racism existed. I just didn’t realize how deeply rooted it was.”
So Slavin has a greater appreciation now of the players on eight remaining NHL teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs deciding not to play games on Thursday and Friday as a form of protest against systemic racism and police brutality. The NHL players in the hubs in Toronto and Edmonton followed the example of players in the NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the NFL, who also postponed games or canceled practices in reaction to the police shooting Sunday of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“It’s hard to live with the fact that Emersyn is going to grow up in this world and, obviously, we want to see change happen,” Slavin said. “So there’s a long way to go and I could go on for a while about this and share my heart on the matter, but there needs to be a change happening and what the NHL did with postponing the games, I think, is a great sign of solidarity and it was awesome to see that. … But there’s still a lot more that needs to be done than just postponing one game, postponing a couple games.
“There’s a lot of change that needs to happen and a lot of action that needs to happen outside of hockey.”
Discussions about racism and police brutality have been pushed to the forefront in North America following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Slavin said he had some conversations with his teammates about those subjects prior to the Hurricanes entering the bubble in Toronto in July for the start of the playoffs.
Most of the Hurricanes players went their separate ways after being eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Second Round on Aug. 19, so Slavin hasn’t had a chance to speak with them about what happened this week. But he plans to continue his education on racial inequality, knowing it will become even more important when Emersyn is older.
“Over the course of this year, over the course of my daughter’s life, I’ve been trying to educate myself on these matters,” Slavin said. “So I’m still learning. I definitely do not know everything. Just trying to learn right now and educate is super important, so listening to Black people, to the people who are actually experiencing what’s going on right now is really big. Taking what you learn from those conversations, you definitely want to have those hard conversations with the people on your team, the people that you’re closest to outside of hockey, whatever it is.
“Those conversations aren’t easy, but to have them is extremely important to bring awareness to this to hopefully start that change.”