With the NHL lockout showing no signs of ending, Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds signed with Liberec in the Czech Republic to stay on his skates this fall.
But sadly, even on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Simmonds, who is black, was subjected to the same type of racism that surfaced during a 2011 preseason game in London, Ontario.
In only his third game with the team, Simmonds was on the ice when a fight broke out between Lisberec and Chomutov players. As the players were separated, fans began chanting “opice,” which translates to “monkey,” as Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy reported.
Both teams later condemned the chants and Chomutov was reportedly fined 30,000 crowns ($1,500) by the Czech Ice Hockey Association Disciplinary Commission.
In a statement posted on the Chomutov Web site, the team apologized for the incident (via Puck Daddy):
“We are disgusted by the behavior of a group of spectators who greatly damaged the reputation of the club. We would like to deeply apologize to the players and Mr. Simmonds,” said Chomutov Marketing Director David Dinda.
“It was embarrassing, pathetic and small. I ask these people to not attend Chomutov hockey games. In fans like them we are not interested in. We’ll do our best to find people who are the originators of this act and prevent them entry to the stadium.” said Chomutov GM Jaroslav Veverka.
During a preseason shootout in London, Ontario, last September, a fan threw a banana peel on the ice while Simmonds was approaching the goal.
“When you’re a black man playing in a predominantly white man’s sport, you’ve got to come to expect things like that,” Simmonds said at the time. “Over the past 23 years of my life, I’ve come to expect some things like that. But I’m older and more mature now, I kind of just left things roll off [my back]. I try not to think about stuff like that.”
Simmonds’ agent, Eustace King, spoke with Puck Daddy following the latest incident.
“Whether you’re in Europe or North America, the historical issues of our society that have and will continue to plague us will continue to be there,” said King. “Just because we’re sports I don’t think that we’re exempt from any of these racial overtones or any of these racial issues that we’ll face as people. Being in sports is just an extension of society; we just happen to be doing it on the ice or on the field or on the court.
“I think fans need to remember that athletes, their workplace is an arena and in front of massive crowds. This type of abuse should not and will not be accepted. And it wouldn’t be accepted in any typical workplace. So why should it be accepted in an arena by more than one fan?
“To me this is just a verbal assault,” he said.