From the Waterloo Record’s Josh Brown:
Hockey fans saw Givani Smith flash his middle finger at the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds bench.
What they didn’t see were the racial slurs, threats and abuse that the Kitchener Rangers winger, who is Black, endured before and after the incident.
Video of Smith’s outburst went viral in hockey circles.
The footage showed him flipping the bird to Soo players just after the Rangers extended their playoff lives with an emotional 4-3 overtime victory against the Greyhounds in Game 6 of their Ontario Hockey League western conference final this past Sunday.
The 20-year-old was suspended for two games by the OHL for making “an inappropriate gesture” and had to watch the Rangers’ season end in double overtime from the press box Monday in the Soo.
The incident sparked a series of racially charged comments on social media. Some called the Toronto native a “coward” and a “douche bag” while others stooped lower.
Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff has more:
According to a report by TheRecord.com, Smith, 20, who is black, was the victim of racial slurs from Greyhounds fans, and there were allegations that Sault Ste. Marie players were involved as well.
“Before we went up to the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media,” Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie told Josh Brown of TheRecord.com. “It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with.”
A photo of Smith with the words “Hockey N—–” written under it, was sent to Smith’s Facebook page.
There was also an episode earlier in the season in Sarnia where Smith was accosted with racial epithets.
“We had an incident during the regular season where a fan somehow got access to our tunnel,” McKenzie said. “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.”
Greyhounds GM Kyle Raftis insisted he was unaware of any racial slurs committed by his players, and Raftis worked with the OHL to set up additional security for Smith and the Rangers, which included a police escort for the team bus to Game 7 in the Soo.
“Nobody from any walk of life should have to go through that,” Raftis said of the racial slurs.
Update: Here’s even more from the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
The Rangers needed a police escort from the Soo airport to their Sault Ste. Marie hotel, and from the hotel to the arena for Game 7.
Smith watched Game 7 from the press box with a security guard at the door.
“We took the step to provide security over and above what we would normally do for a game,” David Branch, OHL commissioner, told The Record. “We wanted to make sure Givani was comfortable and certainly hopefully free from any challenge or issue.”