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Wayne Simmonds was oblivious to the vile taunts from the crowd.
Playing for Liberec of the Czech Extraliga during the NHL lockout, the Philadelphia Flyers forward discovered via an Internet video that fans of rival Chomutov had serenaded him with "Opice! Opice! Opice!" (translation: "monkey") during a game in October.
As his teammate, Czech native Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers, told Yahoo! Sports' Nick Cotsonika: "I felt ashamed for that city or for us Czech people. That's not what we are about."
Now the city has its chance to make a statement against ugliness and ignorance in among sports fans.
According to iDNES.cz, eight fans were arrested and "charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and defamation of nation, race and other ethnic groups."
They face a hearing on Jan. 9, 2013, in Chomutov District Court and could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.
The Czech site reports that the rowdy fans calls themselves the "Black Commandos", attending games in a black hooded sweatshirt and scarf, imbibing a considerable amount of booze before games. (One of the accused fans, Radek Pribyl, said he had 10 beers and two shots but was only "mildly drunk" because he's "trained" for that level of consumption.)
Some of the fans claim they joined the "monkey" chants but didn't start them; others claim they didn't join them at all.
The fans claim the "gypsy" song is an arena standard, aimed at the referees. As for the other chant, Pribyl is quoted by iDNES.cz as saying:
"Ku Klux Klan has always sung to We Will Rock You. Racism has nothing to do [with it]."
Simmonds has already received apologies from Chomutov via a letter on the team's website, which read "we'll do our best to find people who are the originators of this act and prevent them entry to the stadium."
Whether or not the fans are ever prosecuted — and pinning down who chanted and who didn't could prove difficult — the acts have been deemed criminal enough to enter the legal system, which could be symbolically effective in preventing such acts. Or it's just engrained in the culture and this deplorable behavior will never change …
As for Simmonds, he told Cotsonika last week: "I've enjoyed myself since I've been in Europe, and I intend to keep enjoying myself, and that's definitely not going to keep me down. I can tell you that."
On Tuesday, Simmonds left the team, returning to Canada for "family reasons." Liberec seemed surprised by the move, but left the door open for his return as he's still under contract with the team.
Chris Stewart, his teammate and a fellow black player, also left the team, citing lack of playing time.
s/t to Pavel Maglyasy for the story and Lenka Hosek for the translation.