Tha Sports Junkies 101

Repeated Racist Chants Towards Devante Smith-Pelly

repeated racist chants bridgetds / Flickr


Racial Tensions Still Exist in Hockey

Hockey is for everyone, no matter what age, race, sexual orientation or background. However, it didn’t feel that way for Washington Capitals forward, Devante Smith-Pelly. On Saturday, there was a Chicago Blackhawks game against the Washington Capitals. During the game, four fans were racially chanting. Security guards at the game escorted the fans out of the building after confirmation of their actions. The fans were upsetting the Caps forward, who found the situation to be “sad” and “disgusting”, with repeated racist chants. All while the defenseman was in the penalty box.

Watch What You Say

Devante Smith-Pelly was sent into the penalty box after fighting with Connor Murphy; a defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks. While in the box, four fans approached the glass and were seen upsetting the forward. It appeared as though they were heckling the athlete with some form of racial slurs, or innuendos. Smith-Pelly grabbed his stick, walked over to the glass and began to tap it. United Center ushers removed the four fans as a result of their actions. A Capitals spokesperson later confirmed that the fans were chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball!” at Smith-Pelly.

It’s More Than Just One Word

Some people can argue that what was said to Devante is not that, if at all, bad. They simply chanted ‘basketball’. However, it is not just a matter of what they said. It was also their intentions behind the repeated racist chants that are terrible. Saying what they said implies that Devante should play basketball instead of hockey. This was not said because Devante is a better basketball player, but that he is African American. These racist chants are indirectly implying Devante can’t play hockey because of his race. Race should not hold back an individual from playing a sport. It is hard to tell what is worse in this situation; what happened to Devante, or the fact that people don’t see what was wrong with their actions.

Deja-vu for Devante Smith-Pelly

This incident is not the first time that Devante heard he should play basketball. He was at a rookie tournament in British Columbia back in 2010 when he first heard a fan yell out he should play basketball. Smith-Pelly understood the implications behind the comment but didn’t want to draw attention to himself.

The fact that this incident occurred not only during black history month but the NHL’s Hockey is For Everyone campaign, highlights that racial attitudes are still present around hockey. Out of all the NHL players last season, fewer than 30 of them are African American. There is still a long way to go before ridding the NHL of such racial biases.

Racist Chants

Photo by tsyp9

The NHL’s Stance on these Repeated Racist Chants

On Sunday, Gary Bettman, the commissioner with the NHL released a statement that stated: “The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior.” The statement also was supportive of the actions taken by the United Center ushers to remove the four fans; stating that the same response would have been issued at any of the arenas.

It is uncertain as to whether or not the fans are going to have their game attendance privileges banned for the rest of the season.