Chicago Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin apologized Monday for a racially insensitive comment made about black women in an old YouTube video that emerged on social media over the weekend. A statement was released through the team, and published by Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune.
(Note: The video being hosted on YouTube has been pulled from the website, so it’s no longer viewable there.)
The video, which was filmed in 2012 when Panarin played in the KHL, shows Panarin and former teammate Yaroslav Tulyakov asking each other questions in Russian with subtitles included at the bottom. Midway through the interview, Tulyakov asks Panarin the question, "What could you never do?"
Panarin replies, “Have sex with a black woman," according to the subtitles and multiple Russian-speaking sources from Hine. Those sources also told him that the players “appeared to be joking and at times making off-color remarks as they read the questions” and his comment “appeared to be an attempt at humor.”
The Blackhawks and Panarin apologized on Monday.
"In 2012, I was a guest on a Russian TV show and made insensitive comments that I deeply regret," Panarin said in a statement. “I understand my comments are offensive and I apologize for my hurtful words."
The team also released a statement: "On Sunday, we were made aware of the video from Artemi's appearance on a Russian TV show in 2012. We immediately addressed the matter with him. His comments in the video in no way represent the values of our organization. He has apologized and understands the offensive nature of his words."
Panarin, now 25 years old, joined the Blackhawks in 2015 after breaking out as a star in the KHL. The video of him from 2012 didn’t start getting passed around on social media until last weekend, and it demanded a public response from the team less than 48 hours later.
It’s important that Panarin and the Blackhawks came out to quickly apologize for what he said. There’s been some argument on Twitter that he was merely expressing sexual preferences, but when you’re scratching off entire groups of people as unattractive and sexually unappealing simply because of their skin tone, that’s not nearly as simple as saying you prefer blondes to redheads.
Coming just after Hockey Is For Everyone month, where the NHL celebrated having greater diversity and inclusion, this was a bad look for Panarin and everyone involved. Hopefully he’s learned and grown since those comments. His apology on Monday, which didn’t involve any equivocating or blaming people for being offended, at least seems like a good start.