Flyers

Simmonds calls out NHL for 'slap in face' response to strikes

Flyers
Wayne Simmonds, in a Flyers jersey.
USA Today Sports Images

One day after players from numerous sports leagues chose to postpone games in protest over systemic racism and social injustice in the United States, and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, the NHL and its players have reportedly decided to postpone Thursday's playoff games.

For former Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, the decision came a day too late.

The Flyers played their game Wednesday night against the Islanders, and the league's other two games also were played. The NHL held a moment of silence before games. Meanwhile, the NBA, WNBA, and Major League Baseball all postponed at least a couple games.

On Thursday, the NHL reportedly canceled its playoff games, including the Flyers' Game 3, after the NHL's Hockey Diversity Alliance formally requested that the league suspend all games.

Simmonds, who is Black, said Thursday that the NHL's decision to play its games didn't sit well with him:

Here are Simmonds' full comments:

We've had a ton of conversations within the last 24 hours. First and foremost, I think, we were disappointed with how the NHL responded. 

We were the only league to not postpone or cancel games yesterday, which I think is a shame. I think, as a black man, it's a little bit of a slap in the face, especially with what we've gone through over the last little while here, coming from George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and obviously Jacob Blake, the most recent tragedy that's happened. 

 

So I think for the NHL to actually play that game, and to I guess show a futile attempt at trying to say you're with the Black Lives Matter movement, by just having a moment of silence, I don't think that's enough. 

We are strongly urging the NHL to not play these games this evening, for us to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the NBA, the WNBA, MLB and all the other leagues who have shown that there is a lot bigger fish out there to fry than sports at the moment.

Simmonds, currently with the Sabres, spent seven years with the Flyers. The 32-year-old Ontario native has dealt with racism throughout his hockey career, including having a banana peel thrown at him during a shootout attempt, and being subjected to racist chants.

Earlier this year, Simmonds talked about feeling lonely as a Black man in the world of hockey, and how he would like his peers to help:

I know when things happened to me, I remember being in London, Ontario, and I had a banana peel thrown at me. It gets kind of lonely when you’re the only black face on the team or minority face on the team.

To me, it’s important if you’re trying to help the cause, you’ve kind of got to know where we’re coming from and at the same time, not be silent and help us push this thing forward, because at the end of the day, we’re all one. We’re all striving for the same thing, which is equality in our social world. I think that’s the biggest thing — education and kind of just trying to find out something that’s different from what you’re used to.

Hopefully the league hears Simmonds' comments and realizes it has much more work to do.

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