It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen. Then again, the more things changed the more they stay the same. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers winger, who is one of a handful of Black players in the National Hockey League, had a banana thrown at him from the stands during an exhibition against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night in London, Ontario.
The banana was tossed past Simmonds during a shootout where he scored a goal for the Flyers in a 4-3 loss to the Red Wings.
“It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff,” Simmonds said in a prepared statement. “This is something that is obviously out of my control. Moving forward, this is something I will no longer comment on so I can just focus playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Hockey isn’t a major sport in the Black community. There’s no question about that. Obviously, you can see more African-Americans playing basketball, football, baseball, boxing, track and field and other sports.
It’s nice that young African-Americans have a player like Simmonds, who was traded to the Flyers last summer in exchange for center Mike Richards, to watch play in the NHL.
In 2009, Ray Emery, an African-American goalie played for the Flyers. There have been other African-Americans in this sport like Grant Fuhr and Tony McKegney. Fuhr played goalie on the Edmonton Oilers NHL championship teams with the great Wayne Gretzky.
However, when you have situations like this one with racial overtones that doesn’t endear African-Americans to a sport that doesn’t have many players of color, this clearly shows how far the world has to go in terms of race relations.
Simmonds shouldn’t have to deal with something like this in this day and age. He’s certainly taking the high road, showing he doesn’t want these negative feelings to linger. He has bigger and better things ahead of him.
Peter Luukko, Comcast-Spectacor president, issued a statement on the incident.
“It appeared as though a fan threw an object onto the ice during the shootout,” Luukko stated. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to identify the individual. We certainly don’t condone such a foolish act (like this) as a player could potentially be seriously injured. This is the ninth time we have played here in London and the fans have always been wonderful to us. The Flyers consider this our ‘home away from home’ and that’s because this city, the fans and this spectacular arena have been so supportive of the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner, also released the following statement on the incident.
“We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game,” Bettman said. “The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.”
Hopefully, the next trip to London, Ontario will be a pleasant one.