Ex-King Simmonds on the banana incident: ‘You learn to deal with it’


(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Dave Chidley)
Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds scores on Detroit Red Wings goalie Jordan Pearce during the shootout of an exhibition game in London, Ontario on Thursday night.

The Associated Press

TORONTO — An incident where a banana was thrown on the ice as Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was about to take a penalty shot in an exhibition game Thursday was called “stupid and ignorant” by the NHL today.

Simmonds, traded by the Kings to the Flyers in the offseason, said he’s “above this sort of stuff” after the banana was thrown from the stands in London, Ontario, as Simmonds was skating toward Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce.

“I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact I’m black,” he added. “I certainly hope not. When you’re black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it.”

Despite the disruption, Simmonds scored in the shootout, but the Detroit Red Wings went on to win 4-3.

“We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for
the game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement today. “The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.

“It shocked me and I knew I had to keep going and get a shot off,” said Simmonds, who is from Toronto. “It was certainly unusual.”

He also scored with less than a minute left in the third period to make the score 3-3.

Simmonds said in a statement today he wants to concentrate strictly on the game.

“It was unfortunate that this incident happened, but I am above this sort of stuff,” he said. “This is something that is obviously out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something that I will no longer comment on so I can just focus playing hockey for
the Philadelphia Flyers.”

London Mayor Joe Fontana apologized to Simmonds and the Flyers on Friday on behalf of his city.

“It was a stupid and mindless act by a single individual,” he said in a statement. “However, it reflects badly on our entire community. London is a diverse and welcoming city and we like it that way.”

Norton Sports, a California sports management group that does not manage Simmonds, offered a $500 reward for the identity of the banana thrower. The Twitter offer quickly drew others promising to add to the reward. As of this morning, Simmonds was a trending topic on the social network.

Kevin Weekes, a former NHL goaltender and current CBC color commentator who is black, had a banana thrown at him during the 2002 playoffs in Montreal while he played for Carolina.

“I’m not surprised,” said Weekes. “We have some people that still have their heads in the sand and some people that don’t necessarily want to evolve and aren’t necessarily all that comfortable with the fact that the game is evolving. I understand that firsthand — I’m the first black national broadcaster in NHL history, the first black broadcaster on ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’

“The reality is that there’s still some people that aren’t very comfortable with that. Sometimes I’ll get examples of it on Twitter.”

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