NHL issues statement after shocking racist actions against Caps’ Smith-Pelly

There’s no place for this in the NHL… good on Gary Bettman for standing up his players.

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In case you missed it, during last night’s 7-1 win for the Chicago Blackhawks over the Washington Capitals, Caps forward Devante Smith-Pelly was on the receiving end of some pretty shocking racist remarks from Blackhawks fans.

While serving a five minute major for fighting in the penalty box, a couple fans decided to taunt Smith-Pelly, a black man in the predominantly white sport of hockey, by shouting “basketball, basketball, basketball!” This according to a report from the Washington Posts’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Smith-Pelly was noticeably aggravated by the comments and, in the end, the fans were ejected from the game. Here’s a brief clip of the interaction:

After the game Capitals head coach Barry Trotz expressed his disgust with the situation and made it clear that he won’t tolerate having his players subject to that sort of ignorance.

“There is absolutely no place in the game of hockey, or our country, for racism. I think it’s disgusting,” Trotz told reporters. “There’s no place for it. Athletes in this country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”

While the Blackhawks organization condemned the actions of the offending fans last night, the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman felt it necessary to release their own statement today:

While we're not usually ones to give Bettman much credit for... well anything really, you have to give credit where it's due in this case. The "fans" responsible for last night's reprehensible comments deserve exactly what's coming to them. 

As for Smith-Pelly, unfortunately this is nothing new for him. The veteran forward has been been subjected to racial discrimination his entire career and has been extremely forthcoming in sharing his difficulties as a black man in the sport of hockey. Earlier this season, in the wake of several racially charged protests in the NFL, Smith-Pelly opened up to Khurshudyan in a touching one-on-one interview.

You look in the [locker] room, it’s only me,” he told Khurshudyan at the time. “You look at all the teams, it’s not people that look like me. That’s just the way it is right now.”

Just a month ago, Smith-Pelly echoed his own sentiments during a interview with his hometown Toronto Star:

There’s a little bit of a lonely feeling,” said DSP. “I mean, all of us are on our teams by ourselves: there’s not two of us together, or three of us together … I can go to Joel (Ward) and say, hey — because he understands what I’m going through as a black man in America. 

“I can’t go to anyone on my team and have them understand really how it is to be in my shoes. Just because I’m a professional hockey player: they just don’t understand. So it’s really lonely in that sense. You don’t really have anyone.”