Braden Holtby spoke to reporters on Friday two days after releasing a powerful message on Twitter. The Capitals’ Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender was disgusted by the police brutality that led to George Floyd’s senseless death and stated that “America will never be great until all BLACK lives matter.”
“I’ve been following along with the news and what’s been going on in the country,” Holtby said in the video conference to reporters. “Something that I’ve been passionate about for a while is trying to educate myself and learn as much as I can to not be so naive. Especially growing up as a kid in a small town in Canada where the situations that are showing themselves today I never dealt with. Every day, I was getting more and more depressed, and upset and angry. I felt that I needed to say something.”
While being an activist publicly, Holtby has shied away from commenting or interacting on social media. His tweet on Wednesday was his first post on Twitter, his only public social media account, in over three years. Brandi, Braden’s wife who is much more active on Twitter, usually communicates and posts on behalf of the couple.
Stay Safe, DC.
-Braden & Brandi Holtby
— Brandi Holtby (@bbholtby) June 2, 2020
“A lot of the reason that I don’t go on social media too often is that I think it’s flooded with people saying things before thinking, before truly believing in the words they’ve said,” Holtby said. “I’ve been thinking about what to say for over a week and trying for it to resonate with the Black community for what I believe the white community should take responsibility for. I don’t think this is a time to sugarcoat anything. It’s a time to look at ourselves in the mirror and really find how we can be better and how we can take responsibility for the past and learn from that to move forward.
“As far as moving to this area from Canada, the biggest thing for me is with the Caps we get to do a lot of work in the community,” he continued. “Seeing some of the areas in the city that I’d never seen before and seeing how behind the eight ball so many people are to start with, that’s hit me since I first got here. It’s one of those things that I’m trying to learn that I can do my part, my family’s part to help people out. I’m really hoping that this is going to change the world in a lot of ways.”
George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests across the country have encouraged a normally shy group of NHL players to make a stand, including marching themselves. The national protests came a few short weeks after Akim Aliu wrote about the racism he encountered in the sport and that Hockey Is Not for Everyone.
“I don’t know why it’s been taboo to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in,” Holtby said. “I think there’s always this divide from sports to social issues. You want to be educated. You want to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. You’re not just using your platform to try and be popular. I don’t know why it’s like that in hockey. I think it’s changing. I think it’s getting better. The more we follow the true leaders, if you look at what Johnny Toews did, people follow guys like that.
“We’re obviously behind as a sport, and everyone’s realizing that. The true personalities are going to show through as long as we keep pushing it.”
There’s also a crowd on social media that, if they don’t like what you say, they will tell athletes, teams, or media members to “stick to sports” as if you’re not educated enough to have an opinion on important issues.
“[W]e all have our professions, everyone does,” Holtby said. “I don’t know if any of us have unless your job is to fight racial inequality or any social issues. We’re all just trying to be human. We just happen to have a following based on our job where people see us. It’s crazy to think that that’s an argument. We play hockey on the ice. We live our lives just as humans off of the ice and try to do our part that way… American history is one of those things that I don’t have much schooling on, but I have a huge passion for. It’s extremely interesting in so many different ways and I enjoy learning about it and seeing what is good and what is bad and what should change. What the future should look like in my mind.”
Moving forward, Holtby admitted that, beyond learning and listening more himself, he’s also going to try to educate his children more so they can help promote and fight for change as they get older.
“Our kids just turned eight and six, so they’re kind of at an age where they can start processing it, but really don’t quite understand to the fullest,” Holtby said. “You don’t want to paint a picture where the world is an awful place, but you also want to paint a realistic picture where they understand what some people go through that we don’t. The approach we take is that we’re honest with our kids. If they ask questions, we don’t try to sugarcoat it. We explain it as best we can so that they grow up with that knowledge to do something with.”
Holtby was one of several Capitals leaders who made statements, including Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Tom Wilson, who also made financial contributions to Fort Dupont Cannons Hockey Program and East Of The River Mutual Aid Fund
“The biggest thing in my process is I don’t believe in one stop [action],” Holtby said. “I believe in supporting causes or organizations that are going to do good for a long time. Brandi and I have focused more on the Human Rights Campaign in the past because it hit a wide spectrum for us, dealing with LGBTQ issues and racial issues. But as we learn more, as we see the world changing in front of us, we’re looking into finding different options as well as sticking with that. To make sure we’re finding ways to do all we can, and trying to do our part as much as we can. As far as specifics, we’re not trying to make any quick decisions. We want to lay out a game plan for an extended period of time where we believe we can help change.”
As for Holtby’s statement, he just hopes it helps others who are more vulnerable. Holtby has previously marched in the DC Pride Parade with Brandi and once made a speech at a Human Rights Campaign event.
“If it helps someone out somewhere I felt like I needed to in order to do my part,” Holtby said. “It’s not just this one thing. It’s one of those things we try to pride ourselves on. It’s not the flavor of the week. It’s something we live our lives around.”
— Brandi Holtby (@bbholtby) June 5, 2020
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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