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Jaccob Slavin Speaks Out Against Racial Injustice

Slavin: 'It's a problem of the heart right now and how we look at our peers'

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

The Carolina Hurricanes, now a week removed from the Toronto bubble, are closing out the prolonged 2019-20 campaign with end-of-season virtual press conferences featuring management and players.

Though the message would typically hone in on the strides made by the team's young core, the tough lessons learned in the postseason and the bright future ahead - and, to a certain extent, that has been discussed - the conversation has understandably shifted.

How could it not?

On Aug. 23, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., leaving him paralyzed. Blake's name is the latest on a far-too-long list of police encounters with Black people like Atatiana Jefferson, like Breonna Taylor, like George Floyd, that have ended in tragedy, sparking a nationwide groundswell for racial justice.

That uprising prompted a historic week in the sports world, which saw players from a number of leagues - first the NBA and WNBA, followed by MLB, MLS, professional tennis and the NHL - boycott and refuse to play their scheduled games and matches in lieu of seeking actionable solutions to help conquer racial injustice.

Jaccob Slavin, a white defenseman in a predominantly white sport, has a unique perspective on the current landscape. He and his wife, Kylie, adopted Emersyn, a Black child, in mid-April of 2019.

Instagram from @jslavin74: One last getaway before business starts again! Love my girls! 😁

Since then, the Slavins have paused to listen and reflect as they've experienced a real-time shift in their perspective on realities of systemic racism.

"It's different now that I'm living it and experiencing it. Before, I wasn't fully aware of everything going on around the world. I knew racism existed, but I just didn't realize how deeply rooted it was," Slavin said on Friday. "It's hard to see what's happening in our country right now. It's hard to live with the fact that Emersyn is going to grow up in this world. We want to see change happen. There is a long way to go."

Video: "There is a lot of change that needs to happen"

In a movement spearheaded by players within the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles and in conversation with the Hockey Diversity Alliance, the NHL postponed its two-game slates on both Thursday and Friday nights.

"I think it's a great sign of solidarity. It's awesome to see that," Slavin said. "At the same time, there's still a lot more that needs to be done than postponing a couple games. There is a lot of change that needs to happen and a lot of action that needs to happen outside the game of hockey, but it is awesome to bring more awareness to it and continue that conversation."

These are conversations, uncomfortable as they may be, that Slavin now finds himself having with teammates and those closest to him outside of hockey.

This movement, after all, transcends both hockey and sports.

Initiate conversation. Encourage progress. Promote change.

For Emersyn, it has to be different.

For a just and righteous future for all Black people, it has to be different.

"Listening to Black people and to the people who are actually experiencing what's going on right now is really big," Slavin said. "The biggest thing right now is everyone just taking a look at their own heart in this matter. … That's the issue. It's a problem of the heart right now and how we look at our peers. Those conversations need to continue."

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