Nashville Predators defenseman Pernell-Karl “P.K.” Subban can often be the difference — on the ice — between a win or a loss for his team. But the tough and talented hockey player may be making a difference in the lives of his young fans, as well.
Monday morning, reddit user Matthew Cornett shared a video to the /r/hockey subreddit using the handle hockey7676. In the brief clip, Subban offered words of support to the Cornetts’ 13-year-old son, Ty Cornett, who he says has been subjected to racial slurs and other discriminatory taunts, as he plays for the Plymouth Stingrays in Michigan.
“This year has been tough. My son is very aggressive and loud, so that brings out the trash talk. I have no problem with trash talking at all (part of the sport), but the racist talk needs to stop. Between the N-word being thrown at him over and over, being called monkey by players and parents, having an entire team beat their chests and act like gorillas whenever he touched the puck, and being told he should be lunched by former teammates,” Cornett commented on his post.
Subban’s message of support encouraged Ty to “keep moving forward.”
“As long as you’re still breathing, in this world, you’ve gotta believe in yourself and let nobody tell you what you can and can’t do, especially if it’s because of he color of your skin. In this world, some things happen that we don’t really understand. That’s OK, we don’t have to understand [them]. All we have to do is understand ourself, believe in ourself, and keep trying and keep pushing forward.”
As a black hockey player, Subban — who’s Canadian-born but whose parents are Jamaican — is, himself, no stranger to racism. Beyond playing hockey in his youth, Subban has even reportedly encountered racism in an NHL game. Florida Panthers forward Krys Barch was ejected from a game in 2011 for allegedly directing a racial slur in Subban’s direction, ESPN reports. According to the report, Subban claims to not have heard anything; Barch was given a game misconduct after linesman Darren Gibb overheard the slur.
“This video meant more to my family than anything,” Matthew Cornett commented. “I think my son has watched it over 500 times (no joke).”
Young Ty is a P.K. Subban superfan, it turns out.
“Ty has been a Subban fan since he asked for a [Montreal] Canadiens Subban jersey for Christmas when he was 6 (I’m a [Red] Wings fan, so that hurt),” Matthew Cornett said. “He [loves] it so much that he wore it to meet the Red Wings at a practice. He changed his number to #76 a few years ago while playing for Compuware here and has had it since. Every Christmas or birthday he gets a Subban or Preds gift. The only poster on his wall is of Subban. His goal in life is to meet him and play as his D partner.”
This encouraging story comes just days after the Washington Post told the story of Divyne Apollon II, another young, black hockey player subjected to racism in the sport that he loves. During a recent tournament, he was taunted to a degree he’d never previously experienced, but he wasn’t the only one upset — so were his teammates.
“They were so angry about it. They seemed even angrier than us,” said his father, Divyne Apollon I.