Washington, D.C.— Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) announced the passage of the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The legislation was co-led by Congressman Emmer along with Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Brian Higgins (NY-27), John Katko (NY-24), and Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and passed the Senate in July.
“Willie O’Ree has been a trailblazer for the sport of hockey, introducing countless new athletes and fans to the game.” Emmer said. “I am proud to have led this bipartisan effort to award Willie with Congress’s highest honor.”
"The power of Willie's achievements and contributions has always extended beyond the sport of hockey, and the NHL is thrilled to see him honored for his social and cultural impact via the Willie O'Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act," said Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth, and Legislative Affairs. "For decades, Willie has been an opportunity icon for children of color, for those with physical disabilities, and for all those who are in pursuit of their dreams. We could not be more excited for Willie to receive this very special recognition."
Congressman Emmer spoke in support of the legislation on the House floor today. You can watch his speech here.
You can read the text of the bill here.
In 1958, Willie O’Ree was called up from the minors to play for the Boston Bruins, becoming the first black player in NHL history. He endured racism, bigotry, and prejudice from players and fans alike. O’Ree persevered to play more than twenty-four seasons in the NHL and minor leagues. Following his professional hockey career, he became the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, where he established the “Hockey Is for Everyone” initiative to offer marginalized and disadvantaged children an opportunity to play hockeyand develop important life skills.
The Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act has been endorsed by the National Hockey League, Bauer Hockey, Bridgestone, The Chemours Company, Discover, Dunkin’, Enterprise, Everfi, Fanduel, Franklin Sports, Gatorade, Geico, Great Clips, Honda, Jägermeister, Kraft Hockeyville, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Marriott Bonvoy, Mass Mutual, MGM Resorts, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, New Amsterdam Vodka, Pepsi, PPG Industries, Inc., Pure Hockey, Rold Gold, Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), Sirius XM, Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), Ticketmaster, Upper Deck, and William Hill.
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ highest honor for distinguished achievements and contributions. Past recipients have included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Winston Churchill.