Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were thrown out of a game on Saturday evening after it was discovered that they had been chanting racist remarks toward Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly. The incident occurred in Chicago in the third period during Smith-Pelly’s five-minute major for fighting.
The fans, who were sitting next to the penalty box, reportedly chanted “basketball” to Smith-Pelly, who is one of a handful of black players currently playing in the NHL. The chant implied that Smith-Pelly, as a black man, was not suited to play the sport of hockey, and he instead should play basketball:
Fans next to the penalty box said "basketball, basketball, basketball" to Smith-Pelly when he was in the penalty box, according to a Caps spokesman. DSP was understandably upset. The off-ice official confirmed what happened and the fans were booted. That's the holdup for Trotz.— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) February 18, 2018
It was confirmed after the incident that four fans were ejected from the game in the third period due to the racist taunts.
While there is no audio and video of the taunts, the moment was clearly caught on cameras as Smith-Pelly confronts the fans in the penalty box:
Two Smith-Pelly GIFs. First, you can see him hear someone say something to him, and he looks over at them. pic.twitter.com/LvwUgFl7AL— Evan Sporer (@ev_sporer) February 18, 2018
Next, he clearly has had enough of whatever is being said, gets up to address the fans. pic.twitter.com/VLu4qHSSMy— Evan Sporer (@ev_sporer) February 18, 2018
After the game, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz spoke to the media about the incident. In his statement, he denounced the fans, saying that “there’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey, or in our country, for racism.”
Smith-Pelly was not present during the postgame interviews, as he was notably upset by the incident, according to Trotz.
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or in our country for racism.” — #Caps Coach Barry Trotz on an incident involving Devante Smith-Pelly on Saturday in Chicago. Four fans were ejected for taunting DSP when he was in penalty box. pic.twitter.com/kxn3uClSBY— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️ (@TarikNBCS) February 18, 2018
The Blackhawks also made a statement of their own, condemning the fans who taunted Smith-Pelly with racist remarks. The organization apologized and reaffirmed its stance that they are working toward an “inclusive environment for everyone” and that “these actions will never be tolerated.”
Statement on the incident at tonight's game pic.twitter.com/7o02AaLQwz— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 18, 2018
Here’s how Smith-Pelly responded to the media on Sunday. He called the fans “ignorant” who were being “idiots.”
Devante Smith-Pelly on the incident last night in Chicago. pic.twitter.com/Oz9qfFWMQH— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 18, 2018
The Blackhawks released a statement on Monday stating that they have effectively banned the fans, as “racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated” by the team.
Blackhawks have contacted the ejected fans from Saturday night and told them they are banned from future games. Via a team spokesperson: "Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 19, 2018
The month of February marks the NHL’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” movement that celebrates the inclusiveness of the sport and its fans.