Every professional sport, for whatever reason, attracts a unique racial mix. The 2010 census told us our country was approximately 64-73% white, 12-13% black, and 15-24% “other” (the ranges account for the fact that the census divides us into “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino”). Compared to the census data, every race and ethnicity is either over- or under-represented in every professional sport. For example, blacks represent approximately 75% of the NBA, while whites make up only about 10% (with some of the remainder coming from the “other” category, but primarily foreign nationals). Similarly, at a moment in time in 2008, NFL starting lineups were 66% black, 31% white, and 3% “other” (for more insight into how these statistics were compiled, this post is very interesting).
Conversely, the NHL has had so few non-white players that they are listed individually on four Wikipedia pages:
List of ice hockey players of black African descent
List of ice hockey players of Asian descent
List of ice hockey players of Latin American descent
List of ice hockey players of Middle Eastern descent
Rather than simply acknowledging the fact that there are a limited number of world-class athletes of all races who must at some point choose to specialize in a single sport (with a few notable exceptions), which unfortunately seems to divide along racial lines, the NHL has decided to become overly sensitive with respect to race. Take for example the following incident which occurred at an exhibition game between the Flyers and the Red Wings last September:
Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was in the middle of his shootout attempt when a fan inside the Labatt Centre threw a banana peel in his path. Simmonds, who is black, wasn’t shaken by it and beat Red Wings goaltender Jordan Pearce.
Now obviously it is inappropriate to throw anything on the ice at any time, but my first reaction to seeing a banana peel is not “oh my gosh, racism!”. My first reaction was similar to two commenters on another article about the incident:
Just “throwing this out there” (pun completely intended) isn’t the first thing you think of when someone throws a banana that they might slip and fall? I’m not saying the guy shouldn’t be punished for doing something stupid but why do we think it’s racially motivated? The fact that media and individuals jump to this conclusion worries me more than the act itself. Are we not propagating racial sentiments and giving them the time of day they don’t deserve by assuming racial connotations?
I am a Black Woman involved in “White Man’s sports”, my White partner told me what happened and the first thing I said was ” did he slip”!! I am sure Simmons didn’t take this personally. The media needs to lighten up its making this worst than it is.
So what did the London (Ontario) Police do when they caught this “violent offender”? Well obviously they evaluated this heinous act to determine if it met the criteria to be prosecuted as a hate crime:
At a media conference held today at London Police Service headquarters, Chief Brad Duncan announced they’ve charged 26-year-old Chris Moorhouse of London with “engage in a prohibited activity on premises” under the Trespass to Property Act.
The matter will now be handled in the Provincial Offenses Court, Duncan said, and if convicted, the penalty could include a fine of up to $2,000. A court date has not been set.
He added the banana toss “did not meet the threshold” of a hate crime. It also does not fall under any form of mischievous behaviour since the banana did not directly interfere with the play, Duncan said.
I am sure the residents of London, Ontario are happy to know their police are putting their time and talent to good use. But what of the NHL? Has the witch hunt subsided? I am sad to report that not only are fans being targeted as racists but also players. Last Saturday, during a game between the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens, Florida right wing Krys Barch was ejected for allegedly directing a racial slur toward Montreal defenseman P. K. Subban. The only person who heard the alleged slur, the wording of which has not been reported, is linesman Darren Gibbs. Barch must now face a hearing with the NHL. Given the NHL’s Inquisitive nature, one can only hope that Barch fares better than Chris Simon did in 1997.
One final word of advice to the NHL:
The harder you look for racism, the more likely you are to find it, even if it doesn’t exist.