Updated May 9, 2023 - 7:24 pm
Zach Whitecloud is proud of his culture. He’s proud of where he came from.
He also understands people make mistakes.
That’s why Whitecloud, the first member of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to play in the NHL, was able to find forgiveness after learning on social media Monday night about comments “SportsCenter” anchor John Anderson made on ESPN following the Golden Knights’ Game 3 win against the Edmonton Oilers.
Anderson, when calling the highlight of the defenseman’s second-period goal, remarked: “What kind of name is Whitecloud? Great name if you’re a toilet paper.”
🎥 Zach Whitecloud speaks on his pride for his heritage. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/3j5pIQT120
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 9, 2023
Whitecloud said he talked to family members about the incident and reached out to Anderson on Tuesday morning. Anderson apologized and later issued a public statement of apology.
“I don’t want to be in front of all you guys talking about this, but it does allow for an opportunity — not just John and myself — but for everyone to learn from it and move forward and make sure these things don’t happen again,” said Whitecloud, who became emotional discussing the situation. “John recognizes that. He was sincere in his apology. It’s just a time for everyone to learn.”
In his statement, Anderson said: “This is totally on me, and I sincerely apologize to Zach, the Golden Knights, their fans and everyone else for what I said. It’s my job to be prepared and know the backgrounds of the players, and I blew it.”
Whitecloud’s father, Tim, is 100 percent indigenous. Whitecloud grew up in Brandon, Manitoba, about 30 miles east of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. The reservation’s population is 1,057, according to the 2021 Canadian census.
Throughout his career, Whitecloud has taken it upon himself to be a role model for indigenous Americans and Canadians. He’s spoken at schools promoting the importance of education and a healthy lifestyle. He’s volunteered at a hockey camp run by fellow First Nations player Michael Ferland. He also spoke up in 2021 when unmarked graves were discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.