Fans removed from game for remarks aimed at black NHL player

Washington Capitals right wing Devante Smith-Pelly skates during warm in December. CREDIT: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A group of fans were removed from a game in Chicago on Saturday night for remarks aimed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly.

The fans were shouting “basketball, basketball, basketball” at the NHL star, The Washington Post reported.

Smith-Pelly, who is black, was sitting in the penalty box during the game between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. He suddenly got up from his seat and approached the glass where fans nearby appeared to be shouting at him.

“There is absolutely no place in the game of hockey or in our country for racism and I think it is disgusting,” Capitals’ Coach Barry Trotz told reporters after the game.

In a statement, the Chicago Blackhawks said the team was aware of the incident and apologized to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals.

“The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement Sunday, backing up the decision to eject the fans:

“Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly. The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.”

“While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment – free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience.”