Anthony Duclair said he has heard the slurs, seen the gestures.
The Blackhawks’ lone black player, and one of about 30 in the NHL, Duclair said he was disappointed but not surprised at the racial taunts four fans aimed at Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly on Saturday night at the United Center.
“Happens so often, not only in hockey, not only in sports, but in society as a whole,” Duclair said early Monday afternoon before the Blackhawks faced the Kings at the United Center. “You’d think there would be some change after some years, especially (after the NHL) came out with the ad, ‘Hockey is for Everyone’.
“If they were Blackhawks fans they would know there’s a black player on their team. These four people think a certain way, and it’s not just those four people. It’s a lot more. There’s a lot more racism than you guys think.”
A Blackhawks official said Monday afternoon the four people who were ejected from Saturday’s game were informed they no longer are welcome to attend games at the United Center. The team said it would not comment on how it planned to enforce the ban or whether or not any or all of the four are season ticket holders.
“Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks,” a team statement said.
Duclair said he endured racially-fueled taunts while he was growing up, such as name-calling and gestures directed at him.
Duclair said he spoke with Smith-Pelly after the game Saturday and said he was proud of Smith-Pelly for standing up for himself.
Smith-Pelly was in the penalty box during the third period when the four fans directed chants of “basketball, basketball, basketball” at him, implying Smith-Pelly would be better suited for that sport because he is black.
“(Hockey is) obviously a (predominantly) white sport,” Duclair said. “You just want to … do what you love every day. There are some ignorant people in this world. You have to deal with that. … It’s unacceptable.”
Smith-Pelly told reporters in Buffalo on Sunday he had heard the “basketball” chant when he was younger and was just as upset then as he was Saturday, when he exchanged words with the offenders.
“I didn’t really tell anyone. I kind of just brushed it off,” Smith-Pelly said. “We’re at a time we can’t brush it under the rug. You have to start calling people out, making sure people see other people’s true colors. I’m just trying to get the conversation started, show whoever these people were, their true colors.”
Duclair said he didn’t feel he had the voice to speak out when he was younger and that he kept his encounters with racism mostly to himself.
“Whether it happens to Devante Smith-Pelly or a random guy on the street, you should be comfortable in your own skin and your own gender and nationality, your religion, your beliefs,” Duclair said. “Everyone’s equal; everyone should love each other.”
The NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” program promotes a “safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status,” according to the league.
The Blackhawks had their “Hockey is for Everyone” night Thursday at the United Center.
The team also is involved with the Inner-City Education Program, which was established in 2003 with the intent to give youth from low-income families educational and hockey opportunities that might not otherwise have been available.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said “it’s time to start moving past” such behavior as was exhibited Saturday night.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called the action of the four fans “totally unacceptable.”
Quenneville said he apologized to Smith-Pelly, the Capitals and coach Barry Trotz.
“We have to learn from something like that,” Quenneville said. “It can’t happen.”
Saturday’s incident wasn’t the first time it has happened in the NHL.
The Lightning’s JT Brown, who is black, said he received death threats and racial insults via social media after he raised his right fist during the national anthem earlier this season.
In 2011, a banana was thrown at the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds during a preseason game in London, Ontario. In 2012, the Capitals’ Joel Ward was barraged with racist remarks on Twitter after he scored the winning goal in overtime against the Bruins in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman condemned the spectators who were ejected from the United Center in a statement Sunday, deemed the incident “isolated” and said the league “will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment — free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience.”