I'm at a loss for words regarding what happened at the Labatt Centre in London, Ontario, tonight. With the Flyers and Red Wings playing an exhibition game, the Flyers came back from an early deficit to end regulation tied. After a scoreless overtime, the teams went to a shootout. According to Frank Seravalli of the Daily News, a fan threw a banana as Wayne Simmonds attempted and scored on his shot. Simmonds, who came to the Flyers from the Los Angeles Kings as part of the trade for Mike Richards, is black.
Everyone reading this post knows and understands how utterly appalling such an act is, if in fact it was an act of racism (most presume it was based on the timing and meaning of this gesture set at previous sporting events). If it's not simply a random stupid act that coincidentally carries a racist perception, it's a shameful incident embarrassing to the fans and institutions who are unfortunately represented by the person or people who did this. Even more unfortunate is that Simmonds had to deal with this as he proudly represents his new team, and scored a goal despite the act.
Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer spoke with Simmonds in the locker room, where he confirmed that a banana that was thrown (Seravalli's later post has it as a banana peel as opposed to banana), though he hoped it was not because he is black.
Without an admission of guilt or motive, there is the possibility that this was just a bad fan throwing a dangerous object on the ice at a key moment. However, the fact that bananas aren't often sold at sporting events suggests some degree of premeditation, and there are unfortunately more than a few previous examples of bananas being thrown at players of African descent in sporting events, including a 2002 incident in Montreal involving goalie Kevin Weekes. One fan also tweeted that someone tried to throw a banana on the ice when Simmonds scored his first goal of the game during regulation, as documented by this post on SBN, but it didn't make it all the way down.
Despite knowing how backwards and stupid so many people continue to be, it's still shocking to hear that this happened. This should not be anywhere near something Simmonds or anyone else has to deal with. There will never be any erasing this memory for Simmonds, but let's make sure we do our best to try when he returns to Philadelphia.