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Fans at a minor league hockey game reportedly pour beer, hurl racist insults at Native American children

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Midwest has a stereotype of always being nice. Sadly, however, fans at a minor league hockey game in Rapid City, South Dakota, are doing their best to defile that by reportedly acting like complete racist jerks — to children nonetheless. Rapid City’s KOTA-TV reports several men sitting in a VIP suite at a Rapid City Rush game poured beer on and hurled racist insults to a group of 57 Native American children sitting below them.

Justin Poor Bear, one of the parents who chaperoned the group of kids from the American Horse School in Allen, South Dakota, described the ugly incident on Facebook:

“There were 15 or more (people) inside of the suite, most of them men. [T]hey were getting drunk and around the 3rd Quarter they (started) talking crap to our kids and throwing down beer on some of them including our staff and students… (They were) telling our students to back to the rez.”

“Rez” refers to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which encompasses Allen, where the kids and the chaperones returned to after choosing to leave the game early to protect the group of third through eighth graders from further abuse. Poor Bear said he confronted the men before the group left, but declined to fight when given the option.

“I didn’t go to fight, after all I represent American Horse School,” he wrote on Facebook. “I (want) to see all our kids have fun, and for the most part they did until a group of drunks did this to our kids tonight.”

The incident surprised officials at venue, the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, because the company that rents the suite, beer wholesaler Eagle Sales, has “been a great partner,” according to the center’s executive director Craig Baltzer, who spoke to KOTA-TV.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before. Some of the things being said to the children were racially charged. I don’t know how to perceive people who would behave that way,” he said. “We have to bring these kids back to have a good experience.”

Eagle Sales President Tom Helland apologized for the incident, but noted the suite had been rented that night to out-of-town visitors. He told KOTA-TV that no one from Eagle Sales was involved.

The Rapid City Rush, meanwhile, reacted sharply. Not only did they apologize for the incident, but they were also angered about it for their own reason.  In a message posted to Facebook on Wednesday, the team said the actions of a few ruined an event that was designed to help many:

“The Rapid City Rush would like to formally apologize for the actions that transpired at our home game on Saturday night. That game was meant to be a fun, generous way to give back to our community in the Pink at the Rink event that took place. Unfortunately, the efforts and monetary donations made by our fans of over $15,000 to cancer research were shadowed by the inappropriate and offensive events that took place.”

The Rush noted they were “working closely” with officials from the American Horse School, the civic center and Eagle Sales to investigate the incident in the hopes of identifying the culprits and taking “appropriate action.”

“We take this very seriously especially since there were children involved. Under no circumstances do we condone the behavior of those instigating the encounter,” the team said.