(Reuters) - A number of NHL players have voiced a call to stand together for change amid fiery clashes between police and protesters over last week's death of a black man shown on video gasping for breath as a white policeman knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.
Civil unrest flared and curfews have been imposed in several major U.S. cities as demonstrators took to the streets to vent outrage at the death of George Floyd, whose dying words "I can't breathe" have turned into a rallying cry.
"My hometown is burning. Businesses where I grew up are being boarded up. America is not OK," Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler wrote on Twitter.
"Growing up outside of Minneapolis I always felt sheltered from racism. That's because I was. Most people I grew up with looked like me. I never had to be scared when I stopped at a traffic light or saw the police in public.
"My kids will never know that fear either. I'm heartbroken that we still treat people this way. We need to stand with the black community and fundamentally change how the leadership in this country has dealt with racism."
Evander Kane, a forward with the San Jose Sharks, was one of the first NHL players to speak out after the Floyd incident and called on prominent athletes from the NHL and beyond to lend their voices to causes of racial justice.
"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 opinions, voice their frustration," Kane, who is black, said during a recent appearance on ESPN's "First Take".
"It's time for guys like (NFL quarterback) Tom Brady and (Pittsburgh Penguins captain) Sidney Crosby, those type of figures, to speak up about what is right and, clearly in this case, what is unbelievably wrong. Because that is the only way we're going to actually create that unified anger to create that necessary change."
Brian Boyle of the Florida Panthers also showed his support and solidarity with the black community.
"This...I don't know this pain. I can't even imagine this pain. I've always had the benefit of the doubt," Boyle, who is white, posted on Twitter.
"But I can't say I haven't seen this before. We all have. The footage, the headlines, the media arguments that follow. What we need to see is change. We need to see it stop."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)