The Seattle Kraken have removed all their TikTok videos created for the hockey “BookTok” community after Alex Wennberg and wife Felicia publicly condemned those who have objectified NHL players.
“BookTok” is a community within the popular social media platform TikTok, a group of content creators who review and promote various books. Within that community, a hockey romance novel group formed, and that led fans to start comparing NHL players to the fiction they were reading.
The Kraken caught on to the trend, and Wennberg and his teammate Vince Dunn were among those viewed as real-life counterparts to characters in the books.
However, some fans went too far in the eyes of the 28-year-old forward and his wife, who took to their own social media to push back on the content.
“What doesn’t sit with me is when your desires come with sexual harassment, inappropriate comments and the fact that, with the Internet, we can normalize behavior that would never be OK if we flipped the genders around to a guy doing this to a female athlete,” Felicia Wennberg wrote.
She added that comments about her husband “crossed the line of what it means to fancy someone.”
Because of her reaction — fans pointed out that Felicia Wennberg joked around about fans’ fixating on her husband in the past — comments below her social media posts were aggressive.
That’s when Alex Wennberg stepped in with his own statement on the matter.
“The aggressive language about real life players is too much,” he wrote. “It has turned into daily and weekly comments on our personal social media. This is not something we support or want our child to grow up with. All we ask for is a little respect and common sense moving forward.
“We can all take a joke and funny comments, but when it turns personal and into something bigger that effects our family, we need to tell you that we’ve had enough. Enough of sexual harassment, and harassment of our character and our relationship. Thank you for your understanding.”
ESPN pointed out that, as of Monday, all Kraken “BookTok” videos and posts on all social media pages had been archived with links to Wennberg videos on TikTok resulting in error messages.
Seattle fully embraced the trend on its TikTok page last season, even going as far as to have its bio say “Mostly BookTok” as it put out multiple videos for the community.
Many of those videos were of players walking in slow motion with their pregame business suit attire and captions referencing BookTok. While it was a hit in the community, it clearly got too far for the Wennbergs.
On the other side of it, the hockey romance novel subcommunity of BookTok hasn’t liked the perception that has now been created.
“BookTok is a hashtag that’s been used by a billion users,” Emily Rath told ESPN.
Rath is a hockey romance book author whose Jacksonville Rays fictional hockey team has been a hit in the BookTok community.
“There’s been all this rhetoric that BookTok has been sexually harassing Alex Wennberg, and that’s not correct,” Rath added. “It’s not even about hockey romance readers, either, because 99% of them are just normal people that found a love for the game and a community. These books have opened the door [to hockey].
“What we’re having is this very odd situation where a fandom was created around Alex Wennberg, and they took it too far. They weren’t treating him like a hockey player or even like a fictional boyfriend. You just saw them sexually fantasizing about him in crass and inappropriate ways in a public forum.”
Rath suggested the NHL — there were other teams involved in the BookTok trend in addition to the Kraken — was wrong to feed into the BookTok community the way it did.
“These NHL teams cannot abstract their players the way that fans do,” she argued. “They’re going to treat them like characters in books or treat them as if they’re fictional when they’re not. But when your own company is doing that to you, that’s where I drew the line.”
Rath said she reached out to Seattle to stop making content about Wennberg, viewing it as objectifying him. A day later, the Kraken posted a Wennberg TikTok that referenced her comment as a shot back at her.
It took the Wennbergs’ public scrutiny of the content for the Kraken to wipe away any traces of BookTok from its social media.