The Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) has vowed to end racism in hockey and although they have garnered support from fans from around the league, a new list of demands may change how many view the organization's objectives inside the National Hockey League. I'll be perfectly blunt, after seeing the list of demands released by the HDA today this seems like much more of an attempt at extortion than an attempt at bringing any kind of positive change to the league.
On Sunday morning the HDA published an open letter to the NHL in which they released what they called "their ask" of the NHL. The message started off really good and asked for something that I hope every hockey fan reading this would support, asking for help to remove any barriers that would prevent black individuals from being hired within the ranks of the NHL. I will admit I found it strange that the focus seemed to be exclusively on black individuals given that members of other minority groups, like Nazem Kadri who has openly spoken about his difficulties as a Muslim in hockey, have come on board since the founding of the movement.
Here is the first demand from the HDA:
1. We will accelerate our efforts to ensure that no barriers exist to prevent Black individuals from getting hired by, and advancing within, the NHL and each of our member franchises (individually and collectively, the “League”) and hereby commit to increase:
I. the number of Black executives in the NHL to 3.5% before the end of the 2024/2025 season;
II. the employment of Black hockey-related personnel to 5% before the end of the 2020/2021 season; and 8% before the end of the 2022-2023 season;
II. the employment of Black non hockey-related personnel to 10% before the end of the 2020-2021 season; and 12.5% before the end of the 2022-2023 season.
I must admit I already have a major problem with the demands here and we've only reached the first point on the list. This would effectively force a quota on the NHL in which they would be forced to hire a certain number of personnel based on the color of their skin, I'm sorry but this is discrimination of the highest order and I simply cannot stand silent as it happens. This also ignores the fact that league could be forced to discriminate against someone from another minority group simply on the basis that they are not black, and that is only scratching the surface of the problem.
We have all seen NHL teams from around the league cutting staff as a result of the financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the HDA nonetheless expects the league to meet these demands in short order and in some cases extremely so. Thus the financial and logistical process of making this happen would be difficult as well, and that is even if we are ignoring the obvious discrimination involved in these demands.
I wish I could say things get better from here but they don't. The HDA's second demand also made it clear that it wishes to force more quotas upon the NHL.
From the HDA:
2. We recognize that it is important that our supplier base reflects the diversity of the communities from which we operate and hereby commit to create an inclusive procurement process that ensures that Black suppliers* are selected to deliver at least 10% of the League procurement expenditure before the start of the 2020-2021 season.
The NHL already has a well established procurement process and no doubt have selected the best/most affordable options in order to ensure the largest profits margin possible for the league, it is after all a business. This demand however would again force the league to reevaluate the way it does business in the middle of a pandemic and would again force the league to do business with certain people purely on the basis of race. Again alarms bells are raised here because we are not asking for minority participation, there are no arabs, muslims, latinos, asians, included anywhere in these demands, strange for a group that claims to be about "diversity."
It was by the time that I got to the third demand that I became confident that this was a power grab and not about diversity at all, and I think the third demand will spell it out plainly for all of you to see.
3. We will ensure that the voices of our Black, Indigenous and racialized players are heard and that they have an opportunity to help change the culture of the League by imposing a requirement that at least 50% of the Executive Inclusion Committee (or any successor thereof) shall be comprised of members selected by the HDA.
The HDA also asked for anti-racism education within the league, a move that I would wholeheartedly support. They do however go on to add that they want "unconscious bias education" in the NHL as well and here I have more of a problem. The Implicit Association Test, which has been widely used to test for "unconscious bias," however recent studies, including a study that included one of the founders of the test, have shown that it is extremely unreliable and therefore I feel it should not be forced upon NHL players.
The HDA's fourth demand:
4. We will implement anti-racism and unconscious bias education within the League and make it mandatory for all League employees before the start of the 2020-2021 season.
The fifth demand again appeared to be a clear power grab for the HDA:
5. We will create HDA-approved policies and sanctions that reflect a commitment to zero tolerance with respect to racial discrimination and abuse before the start of the 2020-2021 season.
The sixth demand on the list seemed perfectly reasonable to me, the HDA effectively asked the NHL not to deal with any businesses that have demonstrated openly racist conduct. I think all hockey fans would and should stand by something like this.
6. We will not support, partner with or accept support from any organization that has engaged in, promoted or failed to appropriately respond to racist conduct in their organization of any kind (including, without limitation, the proliferation of hate speech, discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities and other areas such as employment).
The seventh demand again seemed reasonable with the HDA simply asking for clear, honest and timely communication from the NHL.
7. We understand that the collection and sharing of relevant, accurate and timely data is critical to the success of this initiative and hereby commit to transparency in the collection and communication to HDA of all information related to the policies, targets and commitments in this Pledge and the performance of the League in respect thereof on an annual basis.
On the 8th and final point we get to the biggest power grab of them all, the demand for cold hard cash. The HDA has openly demanded funding of the NHL and if early reports are correct this is no small demand. First let's hear from the HDA one last time:
8. We will commit to provide HDA with funding, commencing July 28, 2020, for the following purposes:
I. to support social justice initiatives that target racism and access to justice for members of Black, Indigenous and racialized communities;
II. to create and maintain grassroots hockey development programs that will introduce, develop and support BIPOC players in minor hockey; and
III. to create an anti-racism and unconscious bias training program for use by minor hockey leagues across North America.
You'll notice there's no number associated with their public demands, and I suspect that the reasons for this are not genuine but rather due to how the HDA feels it would be perceived by the general public. That is speculation on my part but when I reveal the number to you, you may understand why I believe this to be the case. So how much is the HDA asking for?
According to TSN's Rick Westhead we are talking about $100 million in funding.