Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were kicked out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals at United Center after racially-charged taunts were made toward Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.
Smith-Pelly, serving a five-minute major for fighting in the third period, got upset with a fan next to him who, according to the Washington Post, was chanting, “Basketball, basketball basketball,” toward Smith-Pelly, who is black.
“There’s absolutely no place in a game of hockey, or a country, for racism,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it. The athletes in this country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”
Trotz said he hadn’t spoken with DSP about the incident, but said he was upset and his teammates had been talking with him.
DSP did not speak with the media following the game, which the Capitals lost 7-1.
February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.
The Blackhawks issued a statement following the game
“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,” a Hawks spokesperson said. “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.”
UPDATE: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement on Sunday morning:
“Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “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.
“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.”
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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck