Advocacy group calls for change to Whiteout Party name

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Despite the celebratory feel of the downtown street parties in support of the Winnipeg Jets, the Whiteout Street Party is generating a firestorm of controversy on social media.

A local grassroots advocacy group is calling for changes to the traditional “Whiteout” parties, suggesting hockey fans consider the impact the event may have on people of colour and marginalized communities.

READ MORE: What you need to know for the first two Whiteout parties, Winnipeg

Black Space Winnipeg founder Alexa Potashnik told 680 CJOB that she drew attention to the issue online after seeing a headline that referred to turning downtown “white again”, and a photo of four men wearing all-white, hooded costumes.

Within hours, her social media posts were inundated with angry comments from Jets fans, many of whom were accusing Black Space of politicizing the issue and ignoring the history of the all-white costumes fans wear to Jets playoff games.

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Listen to the whole interview here:

“Obviously folks are feeling really defensive because they think we’re attacking something that is a Winnipeg thing – that we’re attacking our home, that we’re attacking the Jets culture,” said Potashnik.

“We’re not doing that. We’re getting people to think critically about it. If it’s primarily white people coming downtown wearing all white, painting their faces white… I’m sorry, that’s very concerning sometimes and you have to look at it from all perspectives.”

Potashnik said she understands the Jets’ history and appreciates that the team is trying to bring Winnipeggers together to celebrate the team, but that she’s heard from a number of people of colour who live or work in the inner city and feel uncomfortable around the influx of white-clad, often alcohol-fueled fans taking over the city’s downtown.

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“It does bring a lot of people together because it does have a common goal: let’s ride for our team,” she said.

“For some people of colour, in black communities, queer communities, any type of marginalized group, they feel – and I can’t speak for everybody – it’s very tense.

“I know it’s hard for people to put their mind around that, but a lot of folks feel that their safety is at risk when they go to these parties and people are drunk and saying what they want. It can be an aggressive environment.”

Although she doesn’t expect it will happen, Potashnik said she’d like to see a new name for the street parties. Her group’s ultimate goal isn’t to shut down the festivities, but just to have a discussion about how to make them more welcoming for Winnipeggers of all backgrounds.

“I’m willing to take on that conversation,” she said. “I’m open, we’re open to having these conversations, so folks should be open to making these parties inclusive so everyone feels safe.”

LISTEN: Reporter Sam Thompson on reaction to this story: