The hockey community is rallying around a black player who was subjected to racial taunts during a weekend game in Canada.
The incident occurred Saturday in a North American Hockey League game in Saint-Jerome, Quebec, after Jonathan Diaby of the Jonquiere Marquis was sent to the penalty box.
A fan climbed up onto the glass and began making monkey gestures and showing Diaby a picture of a monkey on his phone.
“People were yelling, ‘You baboon,’ and telling my dad to go back home, like we don’t belong here,” Diaby, 24, told CTV in Montreal.
Diaby’s father and girlfriend were also harassed in the stands, the station reported.
“Security did nothing,” Diaby said. “They asked my family to just leave. They asked them to move and change places, so they could have a quiet game.”
The league issued an apology to Diaby and his family.
“The intolerance of difference is severely condemned by the (league),” it said in a statement. “Although hockey raises passion, it’s important to remember that it’s still a game. We hope that what happened … is an isolated event.”
The Montreal Canadiens also condemned the fans’ behavior.
“The Montreal Canadiens condemn any behavior that targets any player, coach, official or fan based upon race, creed or sexual orientation and mandates the immediate ejection of any person who commits such acts at our venues,” the team tweeted. “All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Black NHL players have been subject to racial taunts, too. A fan at a 2011 preseason game in London, Ontario, threw a banana on the ice when then-Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was making a shootout attempt.
Last year, Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly was in the penalty box in Chicago’s United Center when a small group of fans chanted “basketball” at him.
This year, he invited a youth hockey team to a Capitals game after it stood up for Divyne Apollon II, a black teammate who was subjected to racial taunts.
Retired NHL player Georges Laraque told CBC that he had talked to Diaby.
“I lived through something similar 30 years ago, and you would think 30 years later, the mentality in our society would have changed,” Laraque said. “And what I saw in the video and what I heard was even worse.”