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ESPN's John Anderson apologizes for joke about Golden Knights D Zach Whitecloud's name: 'I blew it'

The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation member said he accepted a personal apology from Anderson

When Las Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud scored his first goal of the playoffs Monday, he probably wasn't expecting to be accepting an apology from a well-known ESPN anchor the next day.

The reason for the apology came during a "SportsCenter" after Game 3 between the Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers. While recapping the 5-1 Golden Knights win, host John Anderson cracked an off-the-cuff joke about Whitecloud when he reached the defenseman's goal, saying his last name would be great "if you're a toilet paper."

Here's the segment:

The full quote:

" ... 13 minutes to go, we're in the second. Zach Whitecloud, what kind of name is Whitecloud? Great name if you're a toilet paper. His first goal of the playoffs ... "

What Anderson might not have been aware of is that Whitecloud's last name is part of his Sioux Valley Dakota Nation heritage. Whitecloud is the first member of his nation to play in the NHL, which he and his family have spoken frequently about in the past.

Anderson issued an apology less than 24 hours later, stating he should have been more aware of the players' backgrounds and said he had reached out to the Golden Knights to personally apologize to Whitecloud.

The statement, via Ben Gotz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“This is totally on me and I sincerely apologize to Zach, the Golden Knights, their fans and everyone else for what I said. It’s my job to be prepared and know the backgrounds of the players and I blew it. I will be reaching out to the team to personally apologize and hope to have the opportunity to speak to Zach as well.”

Anderson was apparently successful in reaching Whitecloud, as the latter spoke with reporters later Tuesday to say he accepted the apology and hoped the experience could be a learning experience for everyone:

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 06: Zach Whitecloud #2 of the Vegas Golden Knights warms up prior to Game Two of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Edmonton Oilers at T-Mobile Arena on May 06, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)
Mocking an unfamiliar name always comes with a risk, as ESPN's John Anderson learned with Zach Whitecloud. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)

Whitecloud is currently playing in his fifth NHL season, all with the Golden Knights. After going undrafted during his career at Bemidji State, he signed with Las Vegas in 2018 and has since carved out a regular role with the team. He signed a six-year, $16.5 million contract extension with the Golden Knights in 2021.

Anderson has been a fixture on ESPN for more than two decades, first joining the network in 1999.