Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith has heard it all before. As a black athlete competing in a predominantly white sport, it’s not as if he hasn’t heard racial slurs or ignorant threats before. But during his post season run this year with the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) things have gone to another level.
Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record profiles Smith in his latest article, covering all of events leading up to his suspension for making an inappropriate gesture towards the Soo Greyhounds during the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 of their OHL playoff series.
Check out some of these quotes from Brown’s article… it’s just remarkable:
The incident sparked a series of racially charged comments on social media. Some called the Toronto native a "coward" and a "douche bag" while others stooped lower.
One man sent a photo of Smith to his personal Facebook account with "Hockey N-----" in the caption.
He also received a death threat.
Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie is understandably distressed by the actions of some fans, but he’s ashamed to say that he’s not really surprised.
"There were threats, physical threats after Game 6," McKenzie.
"Before we went up to the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with."
"It's heartbreaking to be honest," said McKenzie.
Truth is… again this is nothing new for Smith. The 20 year old 2nd round pick (46th overall) of the Red Wings in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, had a particularly frightening event happen earlier this season when his Rangers were facing the Sarnia Sting. Again, from Brown:
After a late-season game in Sarnia, one fan tried to get at Smith in the team's dressing room.
"We had an incident during the regular season where a fan somehow got access to our tunnel," said McKenzie.
"It was a game where he (Smith) had been sent to the room early because he had a misconduct. The fan poked his head in and yelled a racial slur down the hall. I'm not going to repeat it but it wasn't good."
Ridiculous. It’s 2018 and athletes still have to put up with this kind of ignorance? Remember… if you can play, you can play. Personally, we can’t wait to see this kid up in the NHL, sticking it down the throats of all those fans who look down on just because of the color of his skin.