One of the few Black players in the National Hockey League has been dealing with so much racism that he needs a police escort, according to reports. Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith has been dealing with racial taunts from the beginning of this season, the Waterloo Region Record reported last week.
With approximately 30 Black people among the nearly 700 players, diversity is probably the last thing the NHL, let alone ice hockey, is known for.
“It’s heartbreaking to be honest. He shouldn’t have to endure it,” Red Wings general manager Mike McKenzie told the Waterloo Region Record. “[Smith] did a good job of turning the other way. I think the unfortunate part — and it pains me to say this — is that he’s probably used to it by now. He’s probably heard things before, which is brutal.”
Smith, 20, was suspended from an Ontario Hockey League playoff game last week “for giving the middle finger to the opposing bench, but before and after that incident he was subjected to racial slurs and threats, according to his team,” ESPN reported. Considering all of the savage violence in hockey, Smith’s suspension for flipping off an opposing player is questionable at best.
Giving the middle finger “sparked a series of racially charged comments on social media,” the Waterloo Region Record wrote. “One troglodyte reportedly sent a photo to Smith’s personal Facebook account with the caption reading ‘Hockey N***er and another sent a death threat.”
As a result, Smith required a police escort from the airport. He watched Monday’s Game 7 from the press box with a security guard outside of his door, all because of racist hockey fans.
Sadly, this is nothing new. Devante Smith-Pelly of the Washington Capitals dealt with racial taunts earlier this year and Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers has been open about racism on the ice. Hopefully, the NHL and the Ontario Hockey League can find better ways to handle racism — instead of suspending a Black player who had a human reaction to being called the N-word while on the ice.