During a National Hockey League game at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday night, hockey fans in the arena yelled racist taunts toward black Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly.
According to The Washington Post, four fans taunted Smith-Pelly by yelling "Basketball, basketball, basketball!" at him while he was in the penalty box. Smith-Pelly reportedly responded to the racially charged taunts by confronting the fans through the glass.
Next, he clearly has had enough of whatever is being said, gets up to address the fans. pic.twitter.com/VLu4qHSSMy
— Evan Sporer (@ev_sporer) February 18, 2018
The racist taunts took place during the third period of the Chicago Blackhawks v. Capitals game, the Post reported. A game official reportedly notified security, and the fans were removed from the arena. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the incident was "disgusting."
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said according to the Post. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. Athletes in our country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.” He also added that Smith-Kelly was "upset" after the game.
According to a 2015 NPR report, only roughly five percent of NHL players are black. And Smith-Pelly's experience is certainly not an isolated one. Canadian NHL Player for the San Jose Sharks, Joel Ward, for example, shared his first-hand experience with racism within the sport.
In an interview with The Mercury News last September, Ward said he experienced racism "day-to-day" in hockey.
"I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence," he said. "I haven’t really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to it.”
The Blackhawks released the following statement on the incident, according to the Post:
"We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly… The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends out games and these actions will never be tolerated.”