During an exhibition game on Thursday in London, Ontario, a fan threw a banana peel on the ice while Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds, who is black, was taking his turn in a shootout. Simmonds scored anyway. The NHL called it "stupid and ignorant," and said that the incident shouldn't represent Toronto's fans. "I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact I'm black,'' he said. "I certainly hope not. When you're black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it.'' Former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes, who is also black, had a banana tossed at him while playing in Montreal during the 2002 playoffs. What's the takeaway from this week's incident?
Start a campaign: "The NHL has to borrow a page from the world soccer community and start its own 'Say No to Racism' campaign," says David Steele at Aol Fanhouse. "They can cut this off long before it becomes an epidemic, before knuckleheaded fans can feel comfortable enough to commit some similar act toward the next black players they encounter, to disrupt another game -- and to hide in the cowardly anonymity of the crowd."
The culture needs changing: "When it comes to diversity, the NHL is not much different than Canada -- a white-bread majority with some who are still a little awkward with visible minorities," says David Shoalts in The Globe and Mail. The NHL cannot be accused of being a hotbed of racism. It is earnestly trying to embrace diversity through programs like NHL Diversity, which provides funds to a variety of youth hockey organizations. But neither the league nor society can claim success until the quiet forms of racism are erased. And that day is still a long way off."
Keep on chugging: "To marginalize and stifle the words and actions of racist yobs in our national pastime, it is critical that the game continue to become more diverse, top to bottom. That takes time and education and dialogue and vigilance," says John MacKinnon in the Edmonton Journal..
It's just more bad news: "Concussions, the deaths of three former enforcers, the Russian plane tragedy and now what seems to be racial taunting -- these all make this the worst summer vacation ever," says Raju Mudhar at the Toronto Star. "This incident puts the focus on the fans, and chances are they made up their minds about race a long time before they entered the arena." Let's get back to the game.