We need to be better. Not as a sport. Not as a fan. But as PEOPLE.
Earlier this week in the Ukrainian Hockey league Andriy Deniskin made a blatant, disgusting and horrific racist gesture towards HC Donbass player and American Jalen Smereck. If you’ve been living under a rock in the hockey world and haven’t seen the video, click the link above. Warning: It’s not pretty. It’s disgusting. And it’s unacceptable.
Andriy Deniskin was suspended by the Disciplinary Committee of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine for 3 + 10 games (he gets the extra 10 if he doesn’t pay the fine) and given a paltry, monetary fine for his actions. Three games and the equivalent of $2400 CAD for gesturing to a player of color to eat a banana. That’s where we are at in the world today?
I live in the States. We don’t exactly have the best history with racism. From the systematic genocide of the Native American to the enslaving of African American’s, the US hasn’t exactly bathed itself in glory when it comes to people who aren’t lily white. Canada hasn’t exactly done itself any favours either with it’s history of their treatment of Indigenous populations and their use of Residential School Systems. So, unfortunately, racism is nothing new.
What happened in that game is appalling and the punishment clearly does not fit the crime. What the Ukrainian League has basically said, with that punishment, is that racism and racist gestures are a minor infraction in their league. And in the end, incidents like this will keep happening because the repercussions for such behaviors are a joke and that it’s “OK” to be a racist pig. Want clear proof of that? Eugene Kolychev, the now FORMER GM of the Ukrainian Hockey League was FIRED for speaking out against Deniskin’s racist gesture. Yes, you read that properly. Condemning a racist gesture in the Ukraine gets you fired. How do you combat things like this and try to teach players/coaches/fans to be better when you fire a GM for speaking out and barely fine the player for being a complete and utter pile of crap?
IMO, Deniskin should be done with hockey. He should be banned from international play and should be made an example of. That kind of behavior has NO place in any part of society. To think, that in 2021, someone would look at a player of color and gesture that he should peel a banana and eat it is sickening. But here we are and we need to be better.
That Ukrainian League, the IIHF and the NHL need to take a harder stance on incidents like this. The NHL sells “Hockey Is For Everyone,” yet is hockey for everyone? Wayne Simmonds had some very harsh things to say and he had every right to say them. Hear what he has to say below.
Wayne Simmonds speaks candidly on the racist incident in the Ukrainian league: "I can see why people of colour don't want to play hockey... I have faced a lot of these things myself. I don't know if I would want my kids to be playing hockey, to be quite honest." pic.twitter.com/Tirnf0UHHU— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) September 30, 2021
It’s 2021 folks, it’s time to be better. And I know there are people reading this who disagree with me and think I’m a snowflake for having that opinion. Well too bad. If you think what went down in that game is fine and normal and acceptable, then you are part of the problem and then some. Each generation tries to teach it’s children to be better, be more accepting, be colorblind, but incidents like this show we still have a long way to go. Leagues have a long way to go. Players have a long way to go. WE have a long way to go and hopefully, somewhere in the future players like Wayne Simmonds won’t have to answer questions about why a player can “get away” with making an openly racist gesture on the ice. Just imagine that. Take this incident and make it a teaching moment. Talk to your children. Talk to your players. Talk to your coaches. Teach them about history and why these things are unacceptable. Only through conversation and learning can we grow as a people and try as hard as we can to turn the tide of racism. Not only in sports, but in life in general.
We. Need. To. Be. Better. Pass it along.