CHICAGO, IL – In the third period, as Washington faced off against the Blackhawks, a group of fans began shouting racist taunts at Capitals’ forward Devante Smith-Pelly. They were eventually thrown out of the United Center and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released an official statement on the incident:
“The National Hockey 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.”
But, while the news itself was bad, that wasn’t the truly upsetting part. The worst part is that it was also so familiar.
This an all-too-common reality for players like Smith-Pelly, one of the few African-Americans working in a league that’s 93% white. And the truth is, even though these particular racist fans have been banned
, this will all happen again – because it isn’t just a hockey problem. As the Blackhawks’ African-American left wing Anthony Duclair explained
“[This] happens so often, not only in hockey, not only in sports, but in society as a whole. You’d think there would be some change after some years… These four people think a certain way, and it’s not just those four people. It’s a lot more. There’s a lot more racism than you guys think.”
Last February, Shirley Weber wrote about “the myth of a post-racial America” in The San Diego Union-Tribune
. She talked about electing Barack Obama in 2007, and how it had descended into a maelstrom of handwringing and self-congratulatory pats on the back. White people in suburbs across the country, talking about having realized the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr.
But, as Weber wrote: “the black community, while elated at Obama’s success and encouraged by what his election signaled about the progress we’d made, was definitely not buying any claim that racism as we knew it and lived it was finally over. “
Because electing Barack Obama was not a panacea. We hadn’t fixed the underlying issues and the racism remained, even if momentarily out of view from our liberal gatekeepers. But now, in the era of Trump, we’ve peeled back the veneer and we can clearly see that we still have miles to go. The media has put the focus back on our shortcomings and there are many of them.
As Smith-Pelly explained on Sunday [via NPR
“This has happened in hockey before. It’s disgusting, that in 2018 we’re still talking about the same thing, over and over. It’s sad that athletes like myself, 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same place. You think there’d be some sort of change”
This story is not new – and that’s sad, and infuriating and exhausting.