Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly got in a fight with Connor Murphy in the third period of Saturday’s game, avenging an earlier hit on TJ Oshie. But it was what happened in the penalty box that had people talking after the game.
Four Blackhawks fans were ejected after getting in an altercation with a visibly angry Smith-Pelly. We later learned why he was upset.
In the clip, Smith-Pelly appears to alert the penalty box attendants about what’s happening beside him. Then he walks to the glass with his stick pointed towards a fan on the other end. DSP and the fans have a heated conversation before ushers removed him and three others from United Center.
After the game, The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan reported that the fans were chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball” to DSP.
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
The “basketball” taunt has an obvious racist connotation. This was a white hockey fan in Chicago telling one of the few black hockey players in the league that he’s in the wrong sport. The implication is that hockey is a sport for white people, and maybe Smith-Pelly should be playing basketball, a sport for black people, instead. That’s wrong and hateful.
Later, Barry Trotz told media that “there’s absolutely no place in this game of hockey or our country for racism. I think it’s disgusting.”
“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 athletes in our country don’t deserve that,” Trotz added. “It just shows ignorance.”
February is Hockey Is For Everyone month.
2/18 update (12:30 AM): The Blackhawks have released this statement:
Statement on the incident at tonight's game pic.twitter.com/7o02AaLQwz
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 18, 2018
2/18 update (11:06 AM): The NHL have issued a statement:
“Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.
“While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment – free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience.”
2/18 update (1:43 PM): The Washington Capitals have provided a further statement, in addition to Barry Trotz’s comments after the game:
The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game.
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