Fans ejected from hockey game for hurling racial insults at Black player Devante Smith-Pelly

NHL player Devante Smith-Pelly

Racist fans were ejected from the hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals for racist comments made toward Washington’s Devante Smith-Pelly.

During the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is one of only 30 Black players in the NHL, had been sent to the penalty box for fighting with Connor Murphy, a Chicago defenseman. While in the penalty box, Smith-Pelly could be seen getting upset. Some fans were reportedly chanting, “basketball, basketball, basketball” at the African-American player.

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A Capitals spokesperson confirmed to ESPN that the incident had taken place and that four fans were removed from the game.

The teams and the league respond

The incident, where fans chanted at Devante Smith-Pelly while he was in the penalty box, was later condemned by both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals as well as by the National Hockey League.

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

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On Saturday, the Blackhawks also responded with a statement saying, “We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly. The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also released a statement saying that the 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,” the statement read.

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“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.”