In last night’s Flyers-Red Wings tilt, after Simmonds had sent the game to overtime and a shootout, a banana was thrown at him during his shootout attempt. A lot of controversy and public outcry has followed, with Gary Bettman, Kevin Weekes, and Logan Couture speaking out publicly against the supposedly racist incident.
But even Simmonds himself isn’t sure whether or not the incident was race-related. “I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact that I’m black,” he said in TSN’s article. I’m quite skeptical as well.
First, let’s consider what was thrown. Where hockey rinks have been littered with rats, octopi, salmon, hats, beer cups, and streakers, a banana should be considered tame. However, due to Simmonds’ skin colour, a banana can be heavily implied as racism.
Race is a sensitive issue, but there is no definitive proof that this was related to race. Remember that it was Simmonds who scored the game-tying goal which sent the game to overtime.
I understand the knee-jerk reaction to attribute racism to any sort of slight against a visible minority. In this case, though, the entire non-story was sparked by some knee-jerk reaction to a relatively harmless incident.
I must add that I deplore racism of any kind. But I wonder, sometimes, if people are too quick to attribute racist motivations between any form of inter-racial relationship, personal or otherwise.
EDIT: 09/24/11 9:06 ET – Lyle Richardson has his own take, and it’s worth reading. Subtle or subconscious racism is hard to prove. Throwing a banana at a black person doesn’t necessarily make you a racist, but it certainly makes you an awful person.