Canadian NHL defenceman P.K. Subban posted a video Wednesday calling for donations to a GoFundMe fundraiser for Gianna, the six-year-old daughter of George Floyd. Floyd was killed when a police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes after he was arrested in Minneapolis last week.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests in the U.S. and globally, and reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement.
In his video, Subban explained what “change the game” meant for him, while wearing a hat with the phrase on it.
“Change the game... I wear it every day when I go to work. And what does change the game mean? Change the game means change the narrative. The narrative has been the same. No justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen. Change needs to come. But we need everyone. We need everyone and all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part. I’m committed to that,” Subban said.
He then shared that he had made a $50,000 donation to the fundraiser for Gianna, and added he had also spoken to the NHL’s commissioner Gary Bettman, who had agreed to match the donation with another $50,000 from the league. He then encouraged his followers who had the financial means to donate also.
Subban, who plays for the New Jersey Devils, has a long philanthropic history. He started the P.K. Subban Foundation in 2014. In 2015, the former Montreal Canadiens player pledged $10 million over seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital in what was the largest ever donation by a Canadian athlete. In 2017, while he played for the Nashville Predators, he launched Blueline Buddies with the team’s own charity foundation and the Metro Nashville Police, a program that “brings together underprivileged youth, low income families and law enforcement” to help rebuild trust between the groups.
And though he no longer plays for Montreal or lives in the city, he’s continued to support the hospital through his foundation. In March, his sister confirmed the foundation would be giving money so staff at the Montreal Children’s Hospital could get free meals for lunch from the restaurant Notre-Boeuf-de-Grâce on each of the four Fridays in April.
When he made his donation to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the 31-year-old said he wanted his legacy to be about more than his skills on the ice.
“In life I believe you are not defined by what you accomplish, but by what you do for others… Sometimes I try to think, ‘P.K., are you a hockey player or are you just someone who plays hockey?’ I just play hockey. Because one day I won’t be a hockey player anymore. I’ll just be someone who played hockey. So what do I want people to remember me for other than being a hockey player?”
Other NHL players have also spoken out about the protests and injustice against Black people. Evander Kane, a Vancouver native and player for the San Jose Sharks, put out a call for white athletes and non-Black athletes of colour to speak up about inequality and racial injustice.
“We need so many more athletes that don’t look like me speaking out about this, having the same amount of outrage that I have inside, and using that to voice their opinion, to voice their frustration,” Kane told ESPN. “Because that’s the only way it’s going to change. We’ve been outraged for hundreds of years, and nothing’s changed.”
Kane also criticized hockey culture for encouraging conformity in its players, which prevents many from speaking out for fear of standing out too much from their teammates.
“I think hockey unfortunately has a different culture than some of the other sports in terms of speaking out and using your voice, and speaking your mind. I’m one of the anomalies when it comes to NHL players in doing that. That’s another part of our problem is guys being scared to really speak their mind and stand up for what is right.”
In the days since Kane’s call, many other NHL players have come forward to support the Black Lives Matter movement and have spoken out against police brutality including Winnipeg Jets Captain Blake Wheeler, Toronto Maples Leafs superstar Auston Matthews, and Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby.
Chicago Blackhawks Captain and Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews shared a particularly self-reflective statement about his reaction to what was going on.
“A lot of people may claim these riots and acts of destruction are a terrible response. I’ll be the first to admit that as a white male that was also my first reaction,” Toews wrote on Instagram.
“But who am I to tell someone that their pain is not real? Especially when it is at a boiling point and impossible to hold in anymore. It’s obviously coming from a place of truth. This reaction isn’t coming out of thin air.”
Patrice Bergeron, who grew up in Quebec and plays for the Boston Bruins, also released a statement and backed it up with a $50,000 donation of his own, split evenly between two organizations — Boston’s NAACP and the Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.
Bergeron said he “will not be quiet anymore.”
“It needs to be more than a simple Instagram post… Let’s take real actions, with an open heart and compassion, I am determined to be an ally, continue to grow myself, and raise my children to be anti-racist.”
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