Leave it to Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes to create an internet controversy via his Twitter account. As perhaps the NHL’s most prolific tweeter, the man nicknamed “BizNasty” by teammates and friends alike has become better known for his social media antics, than his play on the fourth line of the Coyotes. On Sunday, Bissonnette sparked a controversy after he posted Halloween party pictures, one of which included teammate Raffi Torres.
Torres has since been scrutinized in the hours following for dressing up like rap mogul Jay-Z, while his wife accompanied him as Beyonce Knowles. The couple both dressed the part and even painted their faces black as seen in the following photo.
It didn’t take long before Twitter was buzzing, as some voiced their distaste in the costume due to the fact that it could be construed as reminiscent of a less racially-sensitive era when caucasian entertainers used face painting as a way to mock African-American stereotypes. Torres – a light skinned Hispanic – has had plenty of support on the potentially misconstrued image.
"Raffi's outfit was harmless," Torres’ agent, Eustace King told TSN. "It's Halloween. People need to relax, enjoy spirit of holiday."
He wasn’t the only one to defend Torres. Bisonnette, the man who started it all, must have received a lot of feedback after posting the picture and got back on his Twitter account to try to clear up the issue with this tweet:
"As far as everyone trying to call "Racism" because Raffi dressed up like Jay-Z can simmer down. He's a huge Jay-Z fan."
And it was soon followed by a statement released by the Coyotes.
"There was absolutely nothing racist about Raffi and his wife's costumes," the statement read. "Raffi is a huge fan of Jay-Z and his wife loves Beyonce. It was a Halloween party. The fact that this was reported is ridiculous. We will have no further comment."
Torres is in his first season with Phoenix, signing with the team on July 1 after spending last year with the Vancouver Canucks.
Now the question remains as to whether or not it was racially insensitive for Torres to don the make up in honor of one of his favorite musicians? Would you go to a party with a similar costume? It’s certainly a hot-button topic and it might follow Torres around until everyone finds something else to complain about.
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.