A since-deleted post from the San Jose Sharks is making waves. The communications department for the NHL team is taking some heat for what many believe to be an insensitive (or at least foolhardy) reference to Juneteenth, the day marking the official emancipation of slaves in America.
Ahead of the now-official June 19 holiday, the Twitter account for the Sharks posted a new image for their #WallpaperWednesday campaign in which the team’s mascot breaks a slave’s chains. The tweet was captioned, “Celebrate freedom,” with a series of fist emojis.
The tweet was deleted within hours of posting.
The graphic was created in 2020 by Mohamed Fofana, an account manager for the Sharks, with proceeds from t-shirts bearing the design benefitting the African American Community Service Agency in San Jose.
In a statement issued by Fofana to the NHL website, the artist described what the piece means to him.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity and the platform from the San Jose Sharks to create something from the heart to symbolize Juneteenth! I never imagined me sharing my art and talking about racial injustice with my team would lead to this. I sincerely thank everyone involved and I’ll leave you with this: lead with pure intentions, lead with purpose and never dim your light because you’re afraid it may be too bright for others to see.
“The Shark biting through the chains represents the San Jose Sharks taking a stand against systemic racism and it also symbolizes the importance that professional sports organizations play in taking a stand and recognizing that change starts within,” the statement concluded.
Fofana’s intent aside, the team tweeted the same image at this time last year to relatively little criticism. Perhaps we just collectively had our hands full in 2020 because the post drew far more attention this time around.
Check out some of the reactions here.
The San Jose Sharks communications department declined to comment on the tweet.