A large group of people rallied in downtown Edmonton Saturday afternoon to show support for Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear after racist comments about the hockey player circulated online earlier in the week.
In a surprise appearance, Bear himself drove by the supporters as they gathered outside Rogers Place to denounce racism.
“We are here in support of him, to give him our support, to lift him up. It’s a very difficult time for him, and we want to just let him know that we support him,” Ochapowace Nation Chief Margaret Bear said.
Ethan Bear is from the Ochapowace Nation near Whitewood, Sask.
Last Tuesday, Ethan Bear’s partner posted a message to social media denouncing racist comments that were made toward the hockey player.
“To hide behind a screen is cowardly,” Lenasia Ned wrote. “But to use stereotypes against him as an Indigenous person is dehumanizing and awful!”
Global News has not seen the comments in question.
Ethan Bear issued a video statement through the Oilers’ social media channels, about being subjected to the racist behaviour. He said there’s no place for racism in our communities, sports or in the workplace.
“I know this doesn’t represent all Oilers fans or hockey fans, and I greatly appreciate your support and your love during this time,” he said. “I’m here to stand up to this behaviour, to these comments.
“I’m proud of where I come from. I’m proud to be from Ochapowace First Nation.”
Margaret Bear said what the hockey player faced wasn’t right. Those in attendance Saturday wanted Bear to know they stand with him.
“I am really, really proud of him for standing up as a young man to talk about it and to tell the public that it hurts and it needs to stop. Stop racism,” Margaret Bear said.
“I am very encouraged by the outpour of support that’s coming in.
“No matter who we are, we need to treat each other with respect and kindness. We can disagree with each other but in the end, because we’re all part of the human race… we need to respect and love one another unconditionally.”
The Oilers organization and the NHL have also condemned the comments.
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