Blake Wheeler says he regrets not speaking up sooner.
After posting a letter to Twitter over the weekend on the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that followed across the United States, the captain of the Winnipeg Jets said on a Tuesday video conference call with reporters that “you can’t be silent anymore.”
Wheeler said the death of Floyd last week, as well as the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year, finally moved him to speak up on the issue of racism.
“I haven’t done a good enough job in the past,” Wheeler said. “I’ve felt this way for a long time.”
The Minnesota native’s weekend post included the phrase “America is not OK” in response to the killing Floyd. The 46-year-old black man died last Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
A number of other prominent NHL players, including San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who is black, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, who is Latino-American, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin, and Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos, have posted similar messages to social media in recent days.
The NHL, NHL Players’ Association, NHL Coaches’ Association, the vast majority of teams, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have also posted to social media on the topic or shared players’ words from their official accounts.
Derek Chauvin, 44, and three other Minneapolis police officers were fired in the wake of Floyd’s death. Chauvin was subsequently charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Two white men were arrested last month for the February shooting death of Arbery, a black jogger, in Georgia, while the Louisville police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her home in March also attracted national attention in May.