The National Hockey League’s monthlong emphasis in February on broad inclusion would be better spent focusing on Black history. That’s evident from the ejection of fans on Saturday night who taunted a Black player.
Four fans were thrown out from a Chicago Blackhawks game against the Washington Capitals after hurling racist comments at the Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly. They chanted “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly while he sat in the penalty box during the third period. After hearing the comments, the player walked over to the glass partition while holding his hockey stick and verbally confronted the fans. An official sitting in the penalty area heard the taunts and called security.
“There is absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism. I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it. Athletes in our country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said after the game, according to ESPN. He added that Smith-Pelly, who declined to comment on the incident, was “upset.”
Racist fans are in every sport, but the NHL, which has just 30 Black players, has a persistent problem. Instead of using Black History Month to educate its fans, the league launched a Hockey Is For Everyone month, which it described as an “ongoing effort to celebrate diversity and inclusion in hockey.” However, there’s no emphasis on Black players, which is needed. Instead, the focus is on celebrating “all people who play or watch” the sport.
That all-inclusive approach overlooks that Black players are the prime targets of hate. It was on full display in 2012 when scores of angry Boston Bruins fans used racial slurs on social media toward Joel Ward after a loss in the playoffs.