Calling it "disgusting," Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly spoke out about the racial taunts that were hurled at him during Saturday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
According to the Capitals, a group of fans taunted Smith-Pelley, who is black, by chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball” at him while he was sitting in the penalty box, and were ejected from the arena by staff shortly afterward.
"It's pretty obvious what that means," he said. "It's disgusting. It's sad that it's 2018 and we're still talking about the same thing over and over. You would think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working toward it I guess and we're going to keep working toward it."
The account was corroborated by officials in the penalty box and by the organization, and Capitals coach Barry Trotz was angry after the game.
“I think it’s disgusting,” he said. “There’s no place for it. The athletes in our country don’t deserve that. There is no place in this country for racism.”
A .gif posted online shows Smith-Pelly responding to the fans:
According to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Mark Lazerus, the Blackhawks would not comment on whether the fans were banned from the arena, but the team did issue an apology to Smith-Pelly:
“We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” the team said. “The fans were immediately removed. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”
The Capitals issued a statement Sunday thanking the Blackhawks for their quick action, saying that "such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society."
The Blackhawks ultimately won the game 7-1, snapping an eight game losing streak.