The Colorado Avalanche took the pledge to “Get Uncomfortable” and disrupt racism in hockey to make it more inviting for everyone.
DENVER – Hockey has not always been a comfortable place for all people. Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC) was founded in 2018 by R. Renee Hess to make the sport a more inviting place – but first – you have to promise to get more uncomfortable.
BGHC’s signature campaign, Get Uncomfortable, is a campaign to disrupt racism on and off the ice and make hockey inviting for everyone.
Owyn Cooper volunteers at BGHC locally in Denver and helps with the Get Uncomfortable campaign.
“Getting uncomfortable means challenging things about yourself and how you’ve gone about your day-to-day life to make sure you do what you can to make sure black women and other BIPOCs (black, native and people from color) are safe and welcome and included in space, “she said. “It sounds a little scary, gets uncomfortable, but it really just means forcing yourself to reflect, forcing yourself to understand, learn and listen.”
Cooper urged his favorite team to take the pledge back in September 2020, but first heard from Avalanche fans themselves.
“I tweeted my first thing like, ‘hope the avalanche takes it!’ and it was not really guided, “she said.
Cooper focused on his vision, and began a campaign called “100 Days of Memories,” which raised awareness about the promise of Colorado.
“In my first month or so, we got another hundred or so Avalanche fans to take the pledge, which was really great,” she said.
But she was still not satisfied until she reached the actual team. It took a little over a year, but in January 2022, her persistence paid off.
“The wait did not mean anything to me, it was necessarily the effort that everyone in the organization made to learn, to improve and to make the space more inviting for everyone,” Cooper said.
The team’s breakout artist Nazem Kadri is no stranger to discomfort in the sport. Kadri is a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance with internal goals of ‘changing the face of hockey’ and ‘Tape Out Hate’.
Cooper said his work is groundbreaking, but it is up to his teammates to step up.
“When we talk about ‘getting uncomfortable’, it means that the white players on the team also need to be involved in those conversations,” she said. “It is not fair for him to put him in a position to talk about his pain and his struggle when it comes to the structures in place that have been activated by white players.”
This is where she sees the promise work.
“To see them do the work, to see them tweet more about equity, to create more, to donate more, to put their money where their mouth is, to put their time where they can, to do that work, means the world me.”
The preliminary campaign goals for the Get Uncomfortable promise, as listed by BGHC, are:
- ENCOURAGE the hockey community to create an inviting space for black girls and all BIPOC communities as players and fans of the sport.
- EMPLOY and recruit BIPOC applicants to begin the process of diversifying hockey at all levels.
- EDUCATE the hockey community on social justice and associations with guidance from BIPOC leaders, anti-racism experts, advocates, players and fans.
You can take the pledge by visiting their website here: https://blackgirlhockeyclub.org/getuncomfortable/
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