Dressed as Michael Jackson in a recognizable "Thriller" jacket and pants, the Toronto Maple Leafs center added his name to the list of athletes who inexplicably insist on continuing this unsettling tradition.
Last year, Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres and his wife both wore blackface when they showed up to a team Halloween party dressed as Jay-Z and Beyonce. Back in 2009, Chicago Blackhawks teammates Patrick Kane and Adam Burish sparked a debate when they used blackface to complete their Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman costumes.
Bozak quickly removed the photo after a flurry of tweets were sent his way in response, but not before Twitter and Tumblr user Wrap Around Curl was able to capture a screenshot of the tweet.
The reaction was at once passionate and mixed, with some fans condemning the costume as racially insensitive and others failing to see the harm in what they viewed as an accurate, non-caricaturized portrayal of the King of Pop.
The only problem I have with Bozak's costume is the lack of sequined glove.
— Scott Wasilewski (@scottywazz) October 31, 2012
I don't think Tyler Bozak is a racist for dressing up in blackface. I do think he's not fully aware of the racist connotations of doing so.
— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) October 31, 2012
If you think that for something to be "racist" it requires intent, then you've never heard about systemic racism. #Bozak
— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) October 31, 2012
Bozak later took to Twitter to defend himself, stating that his intent was simply to honor the late singer.
That's a tribute to one of my fave artists. For anyone saying its racist is crazy!
— Tyler Bozak (@Bozie42) October 31, 2012
The incident also reignited the discussion of whether a double standard exists between white athletes and black athletes when it comes to the issue of race. Many fans pointed to 2009, when former Utah Jazz forward (now a member of the Brooklyn Nets) Deron Williams wore whiteface when he dressed as Cal Ripken, Jr.