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This Raffi Torres costume controversy doesn’t appear to be going away

Oct 31, 2011, 5:35 PM EDT

By now you’ve all seen the picture of Phoenix Coyotes LW Raffi Torres and wife Gianna dressed up for Halloween as Jay-Z and Beyonce. The photo was taken at a team party and shared publicly by Coyotes teammate Paul Bissonnette, whose nickname has reportedly gone from “BizNasty” to “BizEnoughWithTheBloodyCameraPhone.”

What started as a seemingly innocuous Twitpic has turned into a pretty massive controversy. Nearly every major media outlet is running with the story; the sheer volume of scrutiny forced the Coyotes organization to issue a public statement denouncing negative reaction to the costume.

(And in a perfect moment of irony, check out this screencap from the front page of the Coyotes website.)


Here are some of the more choice criticisms of Torres’s costume from around the interweb:

Sporting News: “Regardless of how big a Jay-Z fan Torres is, blackface is virtually taboo because of its use in the construction of damaging stereotypes; typically, a white performer would darken his or her face and portray racist characters. The practice was accepted throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries.”

Global TV: “When the Phoenix Coyotes sent out the invites to their annual Hallowe’en party, which took place Sunday night, one imagines they forgot to include a warning asking players not to dress in blackface.”

Bomani Jones: “Seriously, what’s the character here? He’s in a t-shirt and sneakers. The joke is the makeup. And that’s the problem.”

Chris Yuscavage, “White people dressing up in blackface for Halloween as their favorite rappers is always an uncomfortable thing. But it’s even more uncomfortable when professional athletes do it because, well, they’re professional athletes. They should know that them painting their faces black is going to cause some level of controversy. Yet, Raffi Torres of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes took it upon himself to do it anyway.” “Predictably, many were up in arms, and Bissonnette responded to those criticisms by noting that Torres is actually a big fan of Jay-Z. We don’t doubt he is. But that’s the thing with blackface: there’s a history there, and no matter how benign intentions may be, it’s hard to see blackface and not think of…that. And yes, there have been instances of blackface in popular culture actually working, but there’s a difference between a movie where the blackface can actually be used as part of a larger point, and…some guy’s costume.”

The only thing saving Torres right now is the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries divorce. He was one of Twitter’s top trending terms until those two ended their seemingly unbreakable union, forcing the Internet to redirect its collective vitriol.

  1. trbowman - Oct 31, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Bomani Jones: “Seriously, what’s the character here? He’s in a t-shirt and sneakers. The joke is the makeup. And that’s the problem.”

    Everytime I hear Bo Jones speak, I feel dumber for having listened to him.

    • primoproducts - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:21 PM

      I’m half black born and raised in Canada…

      I have 2 words of advise for all of you problem causing ignorant a holes that have nothing better to do then turn an ant hill into a mole hill……If you take this advise you will be saved,,,,,Ready?

      GROW UP……!!!!

      • cardsandbluesforever - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:24 PM

        i swear people have nothing better to do than to make a big deal out of nothing.

        look at the pic- if he hadnt darkened his skin with make up everybody would think he was dressed as Derrick Jeter.

    • sampammer - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:30 PM

      Spot on. This is a HALLOWEEN costume. You want to talk about questionable “taste” then I should post a picture of the fella who went as a herpes wart on a male anatomical part.

      Good grief. This is nothing. Must be a slow news day.

  2. IRockTheRed - Oct 31, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Oh jeez.

    Torres is a Canadian.

    Blackface was not a Canadian form of entertainment; it was popular in the United States and in Great Britain in the, but not Canada, but it fell out of popularity in the 1950s, long before Torres was born.

    Unless you think Torres has studied extensive American history, I doubt he even thought of it in that context.

    • kanariya23 - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      You don’t need to study “extensive American history” to know about Blackface. And the “I didn’t know” excuse does not mean it wasn’t racist or that he’s excused from criticism.

      • pafenceman - Nov 1, 2011 at 6:03 AM

        how many racist ppl do you know who dress up as a black person , your a moron , now we aint allowed to dress up as famous ppl cause other might take it the wrong way ? this is the biggest joke i have ever seen a story wrote about , and the idiot who started all this , should be taken out back of the shed and beat to within an inch of his wasted life , i mean for real , he has no clue about anything anyway

      • sampammer - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:32 PM

        The costume is nothing about “black face” “mammy” singers. Nothing.

        It isn’t about “I didn’t know”; it is just about dressing up as celebs. If you dress up as a black person then you put on makeup.

        Anyways, I looked at the photo and you could not in any way call it “blackface” like it was practiced.

        Non issue totally. PCers are getting to be so offensive.

  3. dadawg77 - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    They look like a combo of Jay Z and Beyonce meeting Jersey Shore. That is a lot of spray on tan magic going on there.

  4. trbowman - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    Bomani Jones is, literally, one of the dumbest human beings on Earth. The fact that he’s able to spew and spread his idiocy via the airwaves and television is scary.

  5. tomosbornesretirementcostjoepaatitle - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    Where was the outrage when D Wade dressed up as Justin Timberlake a few years ago?

    I would think that a majority of society would be accepting enough, and to the point now, where we can celebrate our heros regardless of their race.

  6. imleftcoast - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    It’s a little subjective, but this is the media trying to make a story. Give Torres a break, it’s an homage if he is a Jay Z fan. I don’t think he’s just making fun of black people. It might depend what he was doing and saying, but it looks like a costume and not a racist joke.

    • kanariya23 - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      Doesn’t matter what his intentions with the costume were, it’s still completely racist.

      • mornelithe - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:57 PM

        No, it’s not. You’re just overly sensitive.

      • charliereno - Nov 1, 2011 at 12:22 AM

        A black guy in a yankees hat and white t-shirt is racist?

      • sampammer - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:35 PM

        Not racist and not offensive. You have to be reaching for it to find anything offensive about the costume. You’d have to be a complete wnaker to find anything offensive here.

    • pafenceman - Nov 1, 2011 at 6:07 AM

      explain to me how this is racist , i see little black kids dressing up as harry potter , so they are racist also in your eyes right ? or is it you just wanna call Torres racist cause he is a sports figure , the only thing wrong with him dressing as JayZ is idiots making something out of nothing ,

  7. Brian - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    People who get upset about individuals in blackface who have no particular racist intentions have clearly never heard of Sinterklaas.

    Go to a Sinterklaas parade in Holland sometime and take a look at all the children dressed up as Zwarte Piet, then come back and tell me again how offended you are that people who happen to be from parts of the world aside from America aren’t thoroughly versed in American theatrical history and thus understand what blackface is and why it’s an issue so that they don’t offend people on Twitter.

    • imleftcoast - Oct 31, 2011 at 7:47 PM

      That’s just being oblivious. Jay Z and Beyone are iconic figures, and pop culture figures are good Halloween costumes. It’s close to the line, everyone whose every done blackface claimed it was an homage. The guy is of Mexican and Peruvian descent though, and he was subject to racism growing up. On the other hand, that didn’t stop Wayne Simmonds from slurring Sean Avery.

      • Brian - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:40 PM

        Yes, clearly everyone can assume that Torres fully understood all the baggage that goes with donning blackface, what with growing up in Toronto and spending the majority of his playing career in Canada with perhaps one or two black teammates in all that time. He couldn’t possibly have been oblivious, or just thought it wouldn’t be a particularly big deal.

      • mornelithe - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:35 PM

        They’re iconic figures, to Americans…not to the entire world. Sounds like trying to enforce sharia law worldwide when not everyone has a clue about it.

    • vision2040 - Nov 5, 2011 at 12:06 PM

      Brian, Nice try but The Sinterklass/Zwarte Piet folklore and legend out date the blackface era by 100 years or so. I think you need to read up on the story yourself and rethink what that whole story is all about. It has nothing to do with Racism. Raffi Torres wasn’t dressed in blackface, as it was known in the 30’s, 40’s, that is a bit of a strectch. As they say though, look for something hard enough and you will find it.

  8. blkeskimo1785 - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    *sigh* A slow media Monday…thank God for Kim and Kris.

    • sampammer - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:50 PM


      sigh, wipe tear from eye


      cough sigh.

      Yes and the NBA is still a no show.

  9. seaner44 - Oct 31, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    Anyone who is focusing negatively on this isnt worth listening to ever again. I dont know how to put it any differently. It is Halloween, it is a costume, what is the big deal? I went at count dracula this year, i havent had any transelvienians beating down my door.

  10. nhlbruins90 - Oct 31, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    What a silly country. You would never know we faced serious, perhaps terminal problems. Fiddle away guys.

  11. seaner44 - Oct 31, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    Sporting News = unfollow
    Global TV = un watch
    Bomani Jones = you are fired = never cared about you and now never will = lts try sports instead of sports gossip for a change

    I also believe robert downey jr did blackface for an entire 2 hour movie and no one seemed to care.

    Hashtag getoverit

  12. whatswellydoing - Oct 31, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Bloody hell, let it go. It’s an homage, not racism. I haven’t seen the black community up in arms about this…

    • lawrinson20 - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:26 PM

      Well, it IS a hockey story. Not sure how much attention is going to be paid to it. The ‘banana incident,’ though – that was a different matter altogether. THAT did elevate some blood pressures.

    • kanariya23 - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:51 PM

      Any instance of Blackface is and will always be racist, no matter what the person means by it. You cannot erase its history by saying “well, I’m not trying to be racist!”

      • mornelithe - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:38 PM

        You cannot lay the baggage of American history, across the rest of the world. Get over yourself.

      • sampammer - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:38 PM

        Utter nonsense.

  13. lawrinson20 - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    I am an official representative of ‘the black community.’ : )

    • I’m not offended. This guy is young and not American. People from other nations do not bear the weight of American history and i don’t believe his ‘residency requirements’ obligate him to study the unfortunate intricacies of racism. I’m not offended because i live in NYC, have traveled abroad extensively, and have a sense of context. I realize different things mean different things to different people. This was an ‘error’ — but probably not an ‘error of offense.’
    • To people who claim there’s no reason to be upset… there’s simply no way for ‘us’ to explain it to you. You cannot understand without having lived through racism. And, even then, your perspective will be skewed by both your age and experience. My father feels differently about things than i do. He has gone through much more than i have. To those who are, say, under 30 years old- you really have no sense of context. It wasn’t that long ago that we were property. In my own lifetime (i’m 44), my American, college-educated parents were denied a place to live because of their race. If you think everything is ‘hunky dory’ now, simply because a few famous minorities make a lot of money, you’re wrong.

    • chadyj92 - Nov 1, 2011 at 2:45 AM

      I find your post to be very intelligent and I really can’t argue with anything you’ve said. So, before I start, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m a 28 year old white American boy. A few years ago, I took on six guys who jumped a black friend of mine (and as you might imagine, I lost….. badly!). I say this only so that you can gain some perspective as to what I am like.

      I listed my age because you mentioned that our opinions will be skewed by our age and experience. And…. I agree with you. I wasn’t alive during the civil rights movement In my lifetime.. So I have no idea what it was alike back then.

    • pafenceman - Nov 1, 2011 at 6:16 AM

      im a white man also , and im 46 , and i am not saying there wasnt racist ppl in like the 50s and 60s , but them days are long gone , and everybody in America has the same rights as everybody else , dont matter the skin color or even where they were born , there is nothing about this racist and i dont care how it is put , bottom line , this guy dressed up as somebody who he admires , and again HOW MANY RACIST PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW WHO WOULD DRESS UP AS A BLACK PERSON , IF THEY HATE THEM ENOUGH TO BE CALLED A RACIST

      • selldannysell - Nov 1, 2011 at 7:40 AM

        pafenceman, if “them (sic) days are long gone, and everybody in America has the same rights as everybody else, dont matter the skins color of even where they were born,” how do you explain the racial disparities that still exist in such areas as housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system? How do you explain the fact that the number of white supremacist groups operating has actually grown by more than 50 percent since 2002? Just because you don’t see “Whites Only” signs or “colored entrance” signs in public places any more doesn’t mean the racial problem is over. The history of blackface is enough to deem what Torres did, at the very lest, racially insensitive.

    • sampammer - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:43 PM

      Your comments are thoughtful but . . . it isn’t about “hunky dory” now. It is just looking at it in context. Sometimes a Halloween costume of a celeb (white, black, asian whatever) is just a costume of a celeb.

      Blacks are not the only people to live through prejudice. Let’s get rid of all jokes about Jews, Ukrainians, Germans etc. Let’s never allow anyone to put on makeup to look like another race. While we are at it, let’s burn all books that have words that might offend someone.

      Whoops . . . now I’M taking this too far. Fight prejudice and ignorance. Torres’ costume has nothing to do with either. Non-issue except to the very overly sensitive.

  14. kanariya23 - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    Looks like there’s a bunch of ignorant people out today. Blackface is always, and will always be racist. The “I’m not trying to be racist” excuse doesn’t work. You can’t erase its history with that excuse. Also, really? Are people comparing someone dressing up in Blackface to someone dressing up in “Whiteface?” Sorry, not even close to being the same.

    • sharksfan754 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:39 PM

      Looks like you’re the most ignorant of them all. Its Halloween for christs sake!

    • atomicpenguin76 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:42 PM

      Blackface is racist, except despite what the AP and some news places are reporting that’s not actually what he did. The Sporting News goes out of their way to specify what it is, for example, without acknowledging that Torres isn’t wearing it; the pictures aren’t hard to find if you just google them.

      Look up the pictures, look up what blackface actually is, and then tell me that’s what he was doing. It’s wasn’t, and it’s ridiculous for people to continue making the accusation when it doesn’t reflect the truth.

    • mikerrr2 - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:22 PM

      Uh, yeah, dingus. If blackface is wrong, then whiteface is exactly as wrong. You can’t have it one way without having it the other. Get over yourself and pull the stick out of your a55.

      BTW: Blackface was never “racist.” It may have been insensitive, but that’s not the definition of “racism.” You’d do well to look up the word and get a handle on it before you use it.

  15. hockeyfan9170 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    I’m 41 years old and never knew this. Where was the controversy over the movie Soul Man?

    • mornelithe - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:38 PM

      Where was the controversy over the movie White Chicks?

    • east96st - Nov 1, 2011 at 1:22 AM

      The four people who actually saw the movie were reportedly outraged.

      • mornelithe - Nov 1, 2011 at 1:33 AM

        Yeah, that they were stupid enough to watch it, lol. Haha.

  16. yowillie12 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    RELAX everyone.

  17. stakex - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    America needs to have that rather large stick removed from its ass…..

  18. icelovinbrotha215 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Hmm. Besides the fact that he looks more orange than black, I really don’t see a problem here. I’m black and I wasn’t offended. I really don’t think Torres was trying to pull the color card at all. Isn’t Torres mixed?

    • imleftcoast - Nov 1, 2011 at 12:02 AM

      Torres is of Mexican and Peruvian heritage, and faced racism growing up in Toronto. People have a right to their opinion on this. I just object to the media trying to make the guy into a scapegoat to score political correctness points.

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Nov 1, 2011 at 1:32 AM

        I figured he did. And since he faced racism as a kid, why would he want to rub other racial groups the other way? I’m just surprised this is a story.

  19. woodyc - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    It’s Halloween, the one day each year that anything goes. Get over it people.

  20. mikerrr2 - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    Get over yourselves. My money says 75% of the people who are so “outraged” over this aren’t even black! Idiots.

  21. merchaholic - Nov 1, 2011 at 1:46 AM

    This is news? Seriously? How the fuck is someone dressing up on Halloween news? They need to get over reporting this non-threatening bullshit, remove their heads from their asses and start reporting things that actually matter.

  22. pafenceman - Nov 1, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    OK IM GONNA SAY THIS ONE MORE TIME SO THAT EVERYBODY GETS IT , we all agree that the KKK is racist , the SKINHEADS are racist , now let me ask you something , how many of them do you think (now remember they are racist ) dress as a black person for any reason , and going by this on halloween , then every little black kid who dressed as somebody white is also racist , these media ppl need to go out and buy a life , cause the one they have it totally wasted , this is not news , its stupidity and the idiot who wrote it m is just that , an idiot

    • selldannysell - Nov 1, 2011 at 7:43 AM

      They would dress up as a black person to make fun of that race by evoking harmful stereotypes. So that you “get it,” again, look up the history of blackface and what it was used for and, if you read it with an open mind, you’ll understand why people are offended by it. While I don’t think he meant to do it to be racist, the darkening of his skin, given its history, was not the wisest choice in the world by him. And for you to compare a black person dressing up as a white person is like comparing apples to oranges, because there’s no blatant racist history to it.

  23. streetpack - Nov 1, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Anyone who thinks that costume is racist is an ignorant buffoon. People who think like this are the precise reason that racism persists in the first place

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