9. The Mandela-Bernier Effect
Everyone has a tendency to misspeak at times. On Dec. 6, 2014, goaltender Jonathan Bernier would have been wise to have not said anything at all.
MLSE held an event titled “Giant of Africa” on that date. It was a celebration prior to honoring the legacy and accomplishments of Nelson Mandela at a Toronto Raptors game. Bernier was in attendance for the event.
Mandela first rose to fame for leading the resistance to South Africa’s apartheid policies. His involvement led to his incarceration at Robben Island Prison. Mandela refused to allow the mistreatment of Black South Africans, which upset authorities and saw him arrested many times. Mandela ultimately spent over 27 years in prison.
In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize thanks to the years of work he had undertaken to end apartheid. A year later, he was elected president in the country’s first universal suffrage elections. Mandela remains one of the world’s most respected figures. It’s why the Raptors were celebrating his life.
While walking the red carpet, Bernier was asked by a reporter, “Obviously Nelson Mandela, one of the most significant, historical figures of the 20th century. What knowledge or awareness do you have of him growing up, or when did you learn of him?”
The stopper did not answer this question well at all. Let’s not chastise Bernier for being unaware of the breadth of accomplishments the man he was there to honor had achieved. Let’s not even given Bernier difficulty for not knowing who Mandela was at all. His answer to the reporter’s question, though was less than ideal.
For some unknown reason, instead of Bernier answering the question he was posed by saying he looks forward to learning more about Mandela, he chose to opine on the historical honoree.
Bernier told the reporter, “He is one of the most known athletes in the world and a lot of impact in any kind of sport that he did. Even playing hockey, everyone knows him. From being the type of person he was off the ice and on the ice. It’s unfortunate he passed away a year ago. But you know he changed a lot while he was with us and he’s a tremendous guy.”
While many laughed at Bernier’s gaff. He should receive credit for his involvement in that evening. The proceed from the event were given to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Raptors President Masai Ujiri’s non-profit organization, Giants of Africa.