Hockey is a sport played mostly by white people, and that’s just the way too many hockey fans want to keep it.
As more African Americans move into professional hockey, they provide a barometer of just how rooted in racism the sport still is.
In Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Ontario Hockey League’s boss was so concerned about threats against a black player during a playoff series that he requested a police escort to help get Givani Smith of the Kitchener Rangers to a playoff game, the New York Times reports.
Smith, a draftee of the Detroit Red Wings, had scored the winning goal in overtime in game six of a playoff series and then gestured toward the opponent’s bench. He was suspended for the rest of the series.
What led to his outburst? Take a guess.
“I saw some of the stuff that was being sent in, and it was threatening in nature, and you could perceive it as death threats if you wanted to, and obviously the racial stuff as well,” said Rangers General Manager Mike McKenzie.
“A lot of players of color go through this,” Smith’s agent, G. P. Daniele, lamented. “It’s almost par for the course. It’s unfortunate.”
The local newspaper said Smith had been subject to racial taunts throughout the series.
“He took a lot of abuse on the ice,” said Jay McKee, his coach. “I saw him get cross-checked, tripped, slashed and take high sticks. He only drew one (penalty) call throughout the playoffs.”
“At this time, Givani respectfully asks for privacy, as he and his family wish to move on from the incident. His focus is now on being a Detroit Red Wing,” a family spokesman said.