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Former King Wayne Simmonds is target of racist gesture

September 22, 2011 | 11:09 pm

Wayne3
You see the words, but you don't want to believe them.

Frank Seravalli, who writes about the Flyers for the Philadelphia Daily News, said via Twitter that he saw someone throw a banana at Wayne Simmonds as the former Kings winger was taking a shot during the  shootout in an exhibition game at London, Canada.

Simmonds ignored the distraction and scored; Seravalli said he would check with Simmonds -- one of the NHL's few black players -- when he got to the locker room.

Sad to say, it was true. And another fan who said he was at the game said another banana was launched toward Simmonds before that but landed short of the ice.

Simmonds reacted with class, downplaying the incident. But it's not the first time he has experienced racism in the rink and it would be idealistic to think it will be the last.

In a story I wrote about Simmonds before his rookie season with the Kings, he said he had heard the occasional taunt during his junior hockey career. But others told me he had been subjected to far worse than taunts -- not only from fans, but also from opponents. Simmonds did not want to make a big deal about it because, true to the hockey code, he did not want to stand out for any reason and just wanted to be a team player.

If he won't condemn the moron or morons who did this, others should -- and some already have spoken up.

Kevin Weekes, a former NHL goaltender who’s now a TV commentator, had a banana thrown at him during a game in Montreal in 2002. Weekes, who also is black, said Thursday on his Twitter account (@KevinWeekes) that he was "extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight."

Ducks prospect Devante Smith-Pelly (@smithpelly23) is also black; he said via Twitter that what happened to Simmonds "is just disgusting."

San Jose Sharks standout Logan Couture (@logancouture) is from London and said what happened to his good friend "is awful. No need for this in sports, or life."

Unfortunately, it happens in sports and in life. It's a too-frequent occurrence in soccer, where Brazilian star Roberto Carlos was the target of a banana-thrower in the Russian league in June and said he considered retiring. My Times colleague Lisa Dillman, a fellow soccer fan who is well-plugged in on soccer doings, said various reports quoted his teammates as saying Carlos was in tears afterward in the locker room.

Hockey's locker rooms are overwhelmingly white, but the only colors that should matter are the players' jerseys, not their skin. No one should have to put up with the garbage Simmonds faced Thursday and with which other players have dealt through the years. As hockey fans and human beings we should be better than that.

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-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds warms up prior to an exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings in Canada on Thursday. Credit: Tom Szczerbowski / U.S. Presswire

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