Bigotry Not Acceptable

With local residents preparing to observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this weekend and Monday, a reminder that racial intolerance remains a concern was timely – but certainly not welcome or appreciated.

Last weekend during a hockey game at WesBanco Arena, tempers flared between Wheeling Nailers player Keven Veilleux and South Carolina player Scooter Vaughn.

At one point during the game, Veilleux directed a racial slur toward Vaughn, who is African-American.

Immediately after the game, Nailers management took severe disciplinary action against Veilleux. He was suspended indefinitely from the team.

“I’m horrified and I’m disgusted,” explained Nailers official Tim Roberts of the situation. Behavior such as Veilleux’s “will not be tolerated,” he added.

Later in the week, the hockey league ordered a 10-game suspension for Veilleux.

Reportedly, Veilleux is extremely remorseful regarding his behavior during the game. One source said that in discussing it, the player had tears in his eyes.

Hockey is a rough sport in which tempers often flare, insults and challenges abound and fists sometimes fly. That aspect of the sport is accepted by both spectators and players.

But racial intolerance is not. Period.

It would be naive to suppose bigotry has been erased. Sadly, even here in the Ohio Valley among the kindest people we know, it lingers among a few of our neighbors.

But the overwhelming majority of Northern Panhandle and East Ohio residents find bigotry repugnant.

Should Veilleux be given a second chance after he sits out the 10-game suspension? In a way, it is up to him whether the Nailers keep him on the roster.

Before Veilleux can be accepted back by area hockey fans, he will have to demonstrate last weekend’s behavior was not indicative of how he feels about racial tolerance. Let’s hope that can happen.

Thousands of Ohio Valley residents will participate in activities this weekend honoring the ideals for which King stood. To use a phrase from the civil rights campaign of the 1960s, their eyes will be on the prize.

Sadly, though truly enormous progress has been made, recent events remind us the prize remains just out of reach.