Sep 232011

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.

  10 Responses to “Flying bananas, implied racism, and Wayne Simmonds”

  1. Why is everyone so against calling this a racist incident? Is it because it’s so much easier to just get along and keep quiet? The online and print press are leaning toward racism because sensationalism sells, the players are trying not to get to riled up because the NHL is their meal ticket, and the public is all over the place.

    The most incredible thing I have read is that the banana thrower may have been trying to parody the slapstick joke wherein someone slips on a banana peel. First off, ice is already slippery so that does not make a lot of sense. Second, a banana peel would simple be cut by the skate blade so clearly — and I think there is consensus on this point — the thrower is very, very supid. But the most significant point is that it was not a banana peel that was thrown. It was the WHOLE banana. And the end result is that our thrower threw a whole banana at a person of colour. End of story. Explicit or implicit racism, premeditated hate crime or stupidity gone awry. The only discussion that should result is how the symbolism of this action cannot be condoned and should not be repeated.

    • It’s neither nor, Shaun. I’m not calling this a racist incident because there’s no proof that the culprit threw the banana at Simmonds for specifically racist reasons. And I’m not going to keep quiet about racist issues, but I certainly don’t think this is a good example to use in a debate.

      There seems to the implication that racism is still present in the NHL. Dave Shoalts says there is. I’m not going to deny that. But to be absolutely free of racism and prejudice is a pipe dream. Humans and society just don’t work that way.

      Right now, I feel like a lot of people are using this incident to grab some free brownie points. Granted, to stand up for fairness and equality is a noble gesture, but let’s not exploit this incident, or the colour of Simmonds’ skin.

  2. I do not understand how banana=racist when applied to a black person. The only time I have heard of this fruit used in a racist sense it was against asians and was I thought was asian-to-asian insult, i.e. “you’re really white inside”. How a banana equals anti-black is beyond my understanding

    • I think too often people jump to conclusions and make inaccurate attributions.

    • Bananas whole or peels being thrown at only black people! Their sentiments are very clear. You don’t see bananas being tossed at white people during sporting events. Those denying the racist gesture would have us believe it is just a world-wide coincidence.

      • Not denying that it’s racist, but it’s not proven. Racism is a pretty significant accusation and I just don’t think that, in this particular case, it necessarily qualifies. It’s a word that’s tossed around way too often nowadays that it’s meaning and significance have been lessened to the degree where we use it to describe any sort of issue involving persons of different skin colour.

  3. I have no interest in explaining why it is racist, as I think that kind of talk simply propagates the situation. Rest assured, throwing a banana at a black man can easily be described as racist. I am glad the guy is caught and now facing charges.


    • My problem that yes, it can be described as racist, but can you prove it? Calling someone racist is a pretty serious accusation. It’s not a word that should be tossed around.

      The kid from London (unfairly called an Aryan by some media, which is totally unsubstantiated) has been arrested and charged, but he’ll eventually be released because the police won’t be able to satisfactorily prove that he threw the banana on racist grounds.

      At most, he’ll be banned from the arena for inappropriate conduct.

      If I threw a banana at Jay Bouwmeester (tempting), would I be considered a racist? Maybe I just hate the player and he just turns out to have a different colour skin than I do.

  4. Did the thought ever occur to anyone that he simply wanted to screw up the player on the opposing team? Would it have really mattered if he threw an apple or an orange? Probably not. It’s just because the player happened to be black that the racist card was played. God help him if he threw a piece of fried chicken or a grape soda (disclaimer: I know these are steryo types, I am not racist; I have black friends)

    • Exactly.

      People keep forgetting Simmonds scored the tying goal.

      Whoever threw the banana was a jerk, but was he being a jerk because he was racist or because he was a Red Wings fan or just because he was obnoxiously drunk?

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