I’ve not revisited the Givani Smith story for two simple reasons: first, Smith’s family, through his agent, has asked for privacy in the matter, and second, I fear that Smith deals with racism in hockey on far, far more regular basis than we are led to believe.
I’d like to believe that we can do way better as a society and as individuals to really promote the concept that “Hockey Is For Everyone”; this morning, the New York Times’ Curtis Rush offers an article that causes significant concern regarding that hope:
For decades, black hockey players at all levels have experienced incidents of racial abuse. “A lot of players of color go through this,” Smith’s agent, G. P. Daniele, lamented. “It’s almost par for the course. It’s unfortunate.”
But the level of abuse directed at Smith so concerned the O.H.L. commissioner, David Branch, that he requested the police escort, a move he had not felt obligated to take before.
And in the aftermath, some members of the hockey community are calling for more to be done about racial harassment.
“I’ve lived in his shoes before,” said Kevin Weekes, 43, a black former N.H.L. goaltender and now a lead analyst at NHL Network who played in the O.H.L. in the 1990s. “It’s uncomfortable. It’s confusing.”
Smith received threats after he made an obscene gesture toward the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds’ bench after the Rangers’ overtime win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on April 29.
“There were definitely physical threats,” Rangers General Manager Mike McKenzie said. “I saw some of the stuff that was being sent in, and it was threatening in nature, and you could perceive it as death threats if you wanted to, and obviously the racial stuff as well.”
Continued, and both Red Wings GM Ken Holland and director of player development Shawn Horcoff weigh in:
Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said. “We support Givani. He’s a tremendous young man. We think he’s a really good prospect for us. He had a tremendous playoff. It’s about what you do on the ice. He’s a committed athlete, and we’re thrilled to have him in our organization. We’ve talked to him since the incident and made sure he understands we’re there to support him.”