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Wayne Simmonds’ agent speaks out after ‘verbal assault’ against his client in Czech Republic

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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It didn't take long for executives from Chomutov and Liberec of the Czech Extraliga to condemn the racist chants directed at Wayne Simmonds after he was involved in a fight on Sunday.

As we noted earlier, Simmonds' Liberec team was visiting Chomutov when a number of fans began chanting "opice" ("monkey" in English) toward the 24-year-old Philadelphia Flyers forward.

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Simmonds has been down this road before and so has his agent, Eustace King of O2K Management. King spoke out last year when a banana peel was hurled toward Simmonds during a preseason game and he spoke with Puck Daddy Monday afternoon about this latest incident involving his client.

"Whether you're in Europe or North America, the historical issues of our society that have and will continue to plague us will continue to be there," said King. "Just because we're sports I don't think that we're exempt from any of these racial overtones or any of these racial issues that we'll face as people. Being in sports is just an extension of society; we just happen to be doing it on the ice or on the field or on the court.

"I think fans need to remember that athletes, their workplace is an arena and in front of massive crowds. This type of abuse should not and will not be accepted. And it wouldn't be accepted in any typical workplace. So why should it be accepted in an arena by more than one fan?

"To me this is just a verbal assault," he said.

Chomutov's general manager, Jaroslav Veverka, issued a statement telling fans they were trying to identify who took part in the chanting and that those involved were not welcome in the team's arena anymore.

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As King mentioned, this is a worldwide issue. International soccer has been dealing with it forever and as hockey continues to get more and more diverse, accountability is vital for teams and leagues if fans are to be educated on the issue.

"I've talked about after the last incident with the banana... fans need to be told there's a conduct and it has to be written somewhere, whether that's on the ticket, whether it's when they walk in the building, that they need to be told there are repercussions for their actions," said King. "It can come in multiple forms: It could be denied entry to their game; it could be a revoke of season tickets, but they will be held accountable. I think if all leagues across North America and Europe and in the world did that, and it would tie to this sensitive topic or issue that deals with race relations, I think that people would have a clear understanding of what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.

"The players understand that there's certain things that come with the territory of playing on the ice. 'Hey, you're a bad player' or 'you can't skate'; those things players understand. People are critiquing their ability to do their job. But any of these racial overtones are not acceptable. It's something we have to and the leagues have to address."

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With racism still a big issue in many European countries, Simmonds and Chris Stewart -- who both signed in Germany before moving onto the Czech Republic last week -- were aware that something like this could happen, and not just in Europe but anywhere, thanks to years of being subjected to this abuse at various levels of hockey and in society.

The NHL and the Flyers issued sternly worded statements in the wake of the Simmonds/banana incident last September and Krys Barch was suspended for one game last December when he made a comment toward P.K. Subban that was racially motivated, according to a linesman in that game, a charge that Barch vehemently denied. But whenever there's an incident like this that occurs, the reaction is vital to making progress.

"I think everyone is learning how to better react," King said."I think that everyone could get better. I think we could use every incident to create an example to showcase what not to do."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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