NHL Condemns Four Fans Directing Racial Taunts At Capitals Player
The NHL "condemned the actions of four fans" at Saturday's Capitals-Blackhawks game who were "ejected in the third period for directing racial taunts" at Capitals RW Devante Smith-Pelly, according to Mark Lazerus of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The fans chanted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at Smith-Pelly, who is African-American, while he was in the penalty box. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement called the fans' comments "unacceptable and reprehensible behavior." February is "Hockey Is For Everyone" month in the NHL, a league-wide initiative to "encourage inclusiveness for fans and players of all backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientations." There are currently "about 30 black players in the NHL" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/19). In Chicago, Paul Skrbina notes Smith-Pelly on Thursday during the Capitals-Wild game was shown "squirting water toward a fan who allegedly was heckling him while he was in the penalty box." The Blackhawks in a statement released late Saturday night said they were "aware" of the incident. The Blackhawks have "not yet responded" to an inquiry about "whether or not the individuals ejected will be allowed back in the United Center" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/19). Smith-Pelly said of Saturday's incident, "I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting. You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset. What was said this time around crossed the line" (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 2/18). In Chicago, David Haugh writes for the four fans, Saturday "should be their last Hawks game." Every one of Chicago's professional sports teams "should ban the offending Neanderthals from walking through their gates." Haugh: "Zero tolerance is the best way to fight intolerance" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/19).