December 29, 2018, during a youth ice hockey tournament in Maryland, Divyne Apollon II, age 13, playing defense for the Metro Maple Leafs, began receiving racial taunts from the opposing team. This wasn’t the first time.
As the Maple Leaf’s lone African American player, Divyne has always managed to ignore the racial slurs, letting their sting roll off of him. This time, though, the opposing team escalated the taunting. They made monkey sounds, used the n-word, and chanted: get off the ice, go play basketball.
A fight broke out separate from the taunting with Divyne defending his teammate. As a referee was guiding him off the ice, Divyne received a punch to the face. He punched back—and got ejected from the game. Consequently, they suspended him from the tournament.
We knew we had to do something.
“When we heard what was going on during that game to Divyne, and that it’s happened before, we knew we had to do something. We wanted to show Divyne’s family that we cared. We wanted to take a stand,” says Tammi Lynch, one of the Maple Leafs' parents.
As a middle school, special education teacher in Howard County, Maryland, Tammi is used to standing up for kids. “I’m always advocating for kids and being a voice for them.”
That same day, Tammi created a simple, yet powerful, symbol on her home computer—one with a red circle and a hockey stick—slashing the word “racism.” She printed it on sheets of round stickers. At that evening's game, Divyne’s teammates played with the stickers on their hockey sticks. Their parents wore them on their hearts. They displayed them through the remainder of the tournament.
Players Against Hate was born.
Divyne’s father, Divyne Apollon Sr., posted his son’s incident on social media, along with Tammi’s sticker. The outpouring of support was immediate. Parents began reaching out to both of them, sharing their own kids’ stories of racial hazing. Teams began requesting the stickers. And Players Against Hate was born.
Together, Divyne Sr. and Tammi created Players Against Hate. Its mission is to increase awareness and stop racism and name-calling by youth athletes, their teams and coaches, their families, and spectators. In just a few short weeks, Players Against Hate has received pledges of support from hockey teams in Florida, Chicago, Maine, Alaska—and as far away as Norway.
Money raised for player scholarships
Players Against Hate is selling helmet stickers, stick stickers, and pins. This will eventually expand to include T-shirts, car stickers, and patches. Money raised will provide scholarships for athletes of color who want to play hockey.
“We don’t want this to be a passing thing,” says Tammi. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, Players Against Hate plans to create educational materials to teach players, coaches, officials, and spectators that hate has no place on the bench, in the game, or in the stands.
“We need to teach everyone from the players to the spectators, that trash talk should never lead to hate talk. Stories like Divyne’s and others need to be told. This type of dialogue needs to happen. And Players Against Hate will take it as far as we can go.”