Sad Reality Check Comes To Flyers’ Simmonds By Way Of Banana Peel
A harsh irony fell from the upper deck, onto the ice directly in front of Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds at the John Labatt Centre Thursday night in London, Ontario.
Just two days earlier, CSNPhilly.com published an article on Simmonds, who was traded to Philadelphia from the LA Kings last June, titled, “Simmonds Proud To Represent Black Hockey Players.”
In the article, Simmonds, a Scarborough, Ontario native, told writer Jabari Greer that race-related negativity in hockey, “really doesn’t happen in Canada. That’s pretty much the way it is.”
But it wasn’t that way Thursday night as a fan threw a banana peel onto the ice while Simmonds was skating on a shootout attempt. Yes, he still scored the goal. No, the Flyers did not win the game.
After the exhibition loss to the Red Wings, Simmonds told Frank Seravalli, the Flyers beat writer for The Philadelphia Daily News, “I caught it from the side of my eye. It was a banana. Hopefully it wasn’t directed towards me being black. Because if it was, that’s just somebody being ignorant.”
There’s bad news, and there’s good news here. Bad news first. Racism is still alive and well, not only in the United States and Canada, but in countries worldwide. With plenty of accomplished, successful and accepted black role models in North America, I think a 23-year-old like Simmonds is vulnerable to being easily blindsided by such an overt display of racism. Plus, don’t forget that until now, Simmonds’ only home arena as a pro was Staples Center. I can tell you from experience that the crowd at an LA Kings home game is one of the more diverse you’ll see at an NHL arena.
But here’s the good news. In a sport that is predominantly white on the ice (there are only about 20 black players), in the front office and in the stands, Simmonds teammates and others in the NHL community are embracing him right now; something that I’m not sure would have happened even just a few years ago.
According to Seravalli (http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/20110922_Fan_tosses_banana_peel_at_Flyers_Simmonds.html), a player in the Flyers dressing room said after the game, “I would have went and kicked that fan’s ass myself.” Here are a few tweets that popped up on my timeline as well.
@CstewSTL25 chris stewart The incident that happened in london tonight involving my best friend wayne simmonds was simply disgusting, its 2011 ppl need to grow up,
@Logancouture Logan Couture Wayne Simmonds is a good friend of mine. To hear what happened tonight to him in my hometown is awful. No need for this in sports, or life.
@KevinWeekes Kevin WeekesFor those that asked : I’m extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight in London Ont.We’ve taken HUGE steps to Grow the game of hockey,as I speak Willie O’Ree and I are in D.C attending the Black Congressional Caucus on behalf of the
#NHL & ironically This takes place:( There’s NO place for this in sports since sport connects us not divides us. Much love to all the true&Classy #NHL Fans…
The public display of support from these guys, as well as several others I’ve read over the last couple of hours gives me some hope. This type of attitude and cultural acceptance has to come from within the NHL itself.
If white players sincerely support and defend their black teammates, that sentiment will trickle down to the fan base. While I might be oversimplifying this idea, I think you get my drift. Hopefully this incident can help turn things around by bringing a taboo topic out into the limelight.
Above is a video of the then-Atlanta Thrashers’ four black players being interviewed about the role that race plays in hockey. Their comments are pretty interesting. The Thrashers took some heat for supposedly playing to the city’s demographic by having five black players on the roster at one point. Some thought that while several NHL teams had zero black players, it was no coincidence that Atlanta, which, according to the 2010 census, has a 54% African-american population, had five black players.
No need to question that situation at this point since the Atlanta Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets. Regardless, the video is worth watching, as is Jabari Young’s article about Simmonds worth reading (http://www.csnphilly.com/hockey-philadelphia-flyers/news/Simmonds-proud-to-represent-black-hockey?blockID=565164&feedID=695).
At the end of the day, one can hope that positive results will somehow stem from this negative and unfortunate incident.
- pepperonsports posted this