Another black hockey player has been the victim of racist taunts and death threats.
Waterloo Region Record reporter Josh Brown outlined the recent incident, which occurred during the latter stages of the OHL’s Western Conference final. It involved Kitchener Rangers forward Givani Smith, who has reportedly been victimized by hoards of racial taunts and slurs since making an “inappropriate gesture” following Kitchener’s dramatic 4-3 overtime win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in Game 6.
Smith was caught giving the middle finger to the Greyhounds bench in a video that flooded social media after the game. The Red Wings prospect was suspended two games for the act of pointing a finger at a bench — forcing him to miss the most important contest of his OHL career and watch as the Rangers got ousted in Game 7 — while fans and online scumbags who hurled racial taunts, insults and threats Smith’s way will likely walk with zero consequences.
According to Brown the incident “sparked a series of racially charged comments on social media,” with some labelling Smith a “coward” and a “douche bag.” One troglodyte reportedly sent a photo to Smith’s personal Facebook account with the caption reading “Hockey N—–” and another sent a death threat.
A death threat. Over a junior hockey game. In 2018.
Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie said the racial junk-talk turned into physical, real threats after Game 6.
“Before we went up to the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with,” said McKenzie, according to Brown.
McKenzie also noted that this is far from the first time his player has had to deal with the brutal remarks thrust upon him from dirtbag fans.
“We had an incident during the regular season where a fan somehow got access to our tunnel. It was a game where he (Smith) had been sent to the room early because he had a misconduct. The fan poked his head in and yelled a racial slur down the hall. I’m not going to repeat it but it wasn’t good.”
There hasn’t yet been any accusations towards any Greyhounds players, and team general manager Kyle Raftis expressed that “Nobody from any walk of life should have to go through that,” according to Brown.
In light of the recent bird-flipping incident in Kitchener and subsequent threats, Smith had a personal security guard at the door of the press box, while the Rangers were provided a police escort for trips to and from the airport, hotel and arena ahead of Game 7. OHL commissioner David Branch told Brown he “couldn’t pinpoint another time the league has had to give one of its players a police escort to the arena.”
It may be the first time Branch can remember law enforcement to guide a visiting team around town due to racial threats brought fourth by fans, but it’s certainly not the first incident of the OHL’s checkered past. A quick web search will bring plenty of articles related to racism and intolerance in the O, with some dating as far back as the mid-90s and early 2000s.
In 2015, Windsor Spitfires defenceman Trevor Murphy was suspended five games for violating the league’s harassment and diversity policy. In 2014, Sarnia Sting defenceman Anthony DeAngelo was banned eight contests by his own head coach for hurling slurs at a teammate. Former Greyhounds head coach and GM John Vanbiesbrouck resigned from all his positions after using a slur to describe team captain Trevor Daley.
“I used the ‘N’ word instead of calling him Trevor,” said Vanbiesbrouck, according to the CBC. “I used it just not thinking.”
And those are just a select few.
There are countless examples of this type of disgusting behaviour, and the onus is now on Branch, the OHL and fans to figure out how to keep these racist pieces of trash out of junior hockey arenas and out of the DM’s of the teenagers they love to harass.