ESPN anchor sparks backlash after mocking indigenous NHL player's name
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An ESPN anchor has issued an apology after being hit with heavy criticism for his comments about an indigenous NHL player's name.
SportsCenter anchor John Anderson came under fire after he appeared on air on Monday (8 May) to discuss highlights from the Stanley Cup playoffs game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Knights took a 5-1 win in the game, and during the chat Anderson honed in on the team's defenseman, Zach Whitecloud.
Whitecloud is the first indigenous NHL player from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, according to NHL.com, having signed a three-year contract with the Golden Knights in 2018.
He made his NHL debut against the Edmonton Oilers that year, but it wasn't his return to face the competition that Anderson was interested in.
While chatting over a clip of Whitecloud scoring a goal, Anderson said: "What kind of name is Whitecloud? Great name if you’re a toilet paper."
During the Vegas-Edmonton highlight on SportsCenter, John Anderson jokes about Zach Whitecloud's name, saying it's a "great name if you're a toilet paper."— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 9, 2023
Whitecloud is the first Indigenous NHL player from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. pic.twitter.com/gngA1yg8wk
The anchor was quickly met with backlash over his comment, with one viewer describing it as 'disrespectful'.
Another commented: "That is horrible, uncalled for, he should be reprimanded and taught manners and Native History."
In the wake of the backlash, Anderson released a statement in which he apologised to both the player and his team.
"This is totally on me, and I sincerely apologize to Zach, the Golden Knights, their fans and everyone else for what I said," he said.
Anderson continued: "It’s my job to be prepared and know the backgrounds of the players, and I blew it. I will be reaching out to the team to personally apologize and hope to have the opportunity to speak to Zach as well."
Whitecloud later confirmed that he had spoken with Anderson as he addressed the matter in a press conference.
"I don't want to be standing here in front of all of you, but I hope we can use it as an opportunity for everyone to learn," he said.
In another comment cited by ESPN, Whitecloud added: "I think it was an attempt at humor that came out as being obviously insensitive, and he acknowledges that.
"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."
Whitecloud went on to say he is 'proud' his culture, where he comes from and who he was raised by.
"I carry my grandfather's last name, and nothing makes me more proud than to be able to do that," he said. "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."