As far as I can tell, we have two facts in the case against Mr. Bananathrower:
1. A banana or a banana peel was thrown on the ice while Wayne Simmonds was on the shootout.
2. Wayne Simmonds is black.
It’s hard to ignore the apparent connection between these two facts and come to the conclusion that this was an act of racism. Unfortunately, the person who threw the banana was not identified and escaped without any repercussions. As a result, we cannot accurately determine this person’s intent.
But it seems obvious. What reason would anyone throw a banana on the ice?
This is not the first time someone has thrown something on the ice during a game. Last year, a fan in Toronto threw a waffle onto the ice during a game between the Maple Leafs and the Flyers. Back in 2008, a game between the Devils and Flyers got delayed when a fan threw a smoke bomb on the ice in Philly. Heck, throwing octopi on the ice is a tradition in Detroit.
I’m grasping at straws here because I really want to believe that this was not an act of racism, let alone a premeditated one. I want to believe this was just a horrible coincidence and that the banana thrower had no idea who was on the ice at the time. Sadly, I cannot convince myself of that. It probably was a racist gesture and that is terribly disappointing.
Simmonds is taking it better than I am, though.
“I caught it from the side of my eye,” Simmonds said. “It was a banana. Hopefully, that wasn’t directed towards me being black. Because if it was, that’s just somebody being ignorant.”
Today, he released a statement on PhiladelphiaFlyers.com.
“It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff,” he said. “This is something that is out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something I will no longer comment on so I can just focus on playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
I am really conflicted.
My initial response was to applaud Simmonds for being the bigger man and not making a fuss over this.
His decision is respectable and understandable. His job is to play hockey and he does not want to be distracted from doing that. If a fan taunts a player from the stands, the player shouldn’t disrupt the game and respond. He should just keep going. Simmonds is treating this incident the same way.
Is that the right decision, though? Should he just let this slide and forget about it? By doing so, is he implying that it’s not a big deal if people act out is a racist manner?
Sam Carchidi thinks that the team will bond over this moment and that he’ll win over a lot of fans. I, on the other hand, can’t help but wonder if there is a bigger issue at stake and question whether Simmonds should stand up and speak out.
Gays received a great deal of support in the hockey community after they had a voice. Advocacy from high-profile people like Brian Burke and even Sean Avery helped usher in mainstream acceptance of gay hockey players. Wayne Simmonds has been presented with a similar opportunity to be an advocate for the black community both in terms of acceptance and attracting new fans and players to the sport.
Should he take advantage of this opportunity and make a big deal out of this? I’d by lying if I told you I knew the right answer but sweeping this issue under the rug so quickly just doesn’t sit right with me.
Broad Street Hockey has a post up where you can show your support for Simmonds. Please take a moment to leave a comment.