Raffi Torres Halloween 'Blackface' Out Of Line? Not Necessarily

As a general rule of thumb, if it happens on the field or is directly related to the game I'm more than willing to let the opinions fly. When it comes to what athletes do in their private lives, I generally don't care. Our job isn't to judge what people do off the court. As Charles Barkely famously said, athletes should not automatically be role models.

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In the case of Phoenix Coyotes player Raffi Torres and his wife dressing up as Jay-Z and Beyonce, there's obvious reasons to shake our collective fingers of shame. Dressing up in "blackface" has serious racial implications.

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At the same time, there's a part of the negative reaction that feels outdated.

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I would like to think that in the Age of Obama we are enlightened enough that a guy can dress as a famous person without it being considered racist. Should I not let my kid dress up as the President of the United States if he wanted to? Wouldn't that be a sign of respect and not mockery or insult?

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Racism is clearly not dead in sports as evidenced by the incident from last season with Canadian fan(s) throwing banana peels on the ice and I have to wonder if Torres would have made a different costume choice if he played a sport with more diversity in the locker room. (It will be interesting to see how black athletes respond to this.)

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I don't know Raffi Torres and I don't know what's in his heart. His own background as the NHL's first player of Mexican and Peruvian decent who dealt with racial insults in Toronto as a kid is certainly part of the story. Only he knows what he really feels and I'm not willing to assume based on this picture that he's a racist or even out of line for choosing to dress up for Halloween as Jay-Z. 

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I grew up on the very diverse west side of Phoenix and went to schools where I was a minority. I served in the Army with people of all sorts of color and background and work with people on a daily basis that are very different than me. Torres' decision wasn't offensive to my eyes but I can certainly see why it would be to others.

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Bottom line, we are not here to be the politically correctness police.

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Now, one thing I hope we can all agree on is that Paul Bissonnette in a Speedo is something we can live without.

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