Holtby knew his wife, Brandi, was trying to do her part in taking to social media and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, but he wanted to do more.
“I don’t think this time is a time to sugarcoat anything,” Holtby said on a conference call Friday. “I think 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.”
So after spending considerable time thinking about what he wanted to say and how he could get his message across, he posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday. Among the many statements issued by athletes over the past week, Holtby’s was particularly thoughtful and eloquent. He made it clear he stood with the Black Lives Matter movement and vowed “to walk beside and listen to every word of anguish and give my strength to every black man, woman, or child until their shoes weigh the same as mine.” He wrote about how the “injustice and hatred infused power” is nothing new and that the notion that things have improved is “very naive.”
Asked Friday whether he had any specific actions to follow his words, Holtby said he and Brandi have been talking about options for a while. They believe in supporting causes and organizations that have long-range goals; they have focused 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 they continue to educate themselves and “see the world changing in front of us,” they are looking to find other ways to do as much as they can and are creating a “game plan for an extended period of time where we believe we can help change.”
Holtby has spoken out multiple times on social issues during his time with the Capitals. In 2018, he did not visit the White House with his teammates, joining forwards Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly as players who declined President Trump’s invitation to honor the team’s Stanley Cup victory.
“For me, it’s just a personal thing,” Holtby said then. “I believe in what I believe in, and in order to stick to those values, I think I have to do what I feel is right.”
He has never shied away from speaking his mind. Friday’s media call focused solely on his Wednesday statement and racial injustice. Multiple times, he referred to his youth in a small town in Saskatchewan and how, until moving to the United States, he didn’t truly understand what “racial injustice is in this country.”
“In Canada, we have indigenous rights and racism that way,” Holtby said. “I grew up around that, but this is different, so I needed to educate myself and still need to. I believe how my parents did the right thing in teaching us in our situation. I learned a lot from them and Brandi as well, and now we’re just trying to take our knowledge we’ve learned in a different culture and try to teach our kids that way.”
Holtby also acknowledged that the NHL has been slower than other leagues in terms of players speaking out about political and social issues. He said he wasn’t sure why but thinks it is changing for the better.
He pointed to “true leaders” such as Jonathan Toews, captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, who issued a strong statement on racism, pain and hate this week. Holtby said in order for the sport to grow, it starts with educating yourself, and that leads to bettering yourself and “bettering the people around you.”
“I think we’re obviously behind as a sport,” he said. “I think everyone’s realizing that and the true personalities are going to show through, I think, as long as we keep pushing it.“
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