Imagine yourself telling someone to play a sport that African Americans majorly play in just to see him score the dagger goal to take a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals four months later. Well, that’s what four Chicago Blackhawks fans have to stomach and come to grips with.
Just four months ago, Devante Smith-Pelly was taunted, being told repeatedly “basketball, basketball” by Chicago Blackhawks fans. The fans were since removed and banned from the arena.
In a time where African-American athletes have been told to stick to sports or play in a league where African Americans are dominant, it’s tough to see that there is no progress in the country and African American athletes have to endure being told that they are limited to one sport.
Back in February after the incident, Smith-Pelly talked about it in a press conference. He stated that he immediately knew what the connotation of the chants were. “It’s pretty obvious what that means. It’s not really a secret. It’s just one word, I mean that’s all it takes. Whether it’s that word or any other word. We got the idea. Or I got the idea. And I’m sure they got the idea too. Just one word and I guess that’s really all it takes.”
The NHL is not known for having a lot of African-American players, and Smith-Pelly states that it does feel lonely. In a SportNet California article, he tells them, “I mean, all of us are on our teams by ourselves: there’s not two of us together, or three of us together … I can go to Joel (Ward) and say, hey — because he understands what I’m going through as a black man in America.”
We still have a long way to go in terms of racial equality, but if I’m Devante Smith-Pelly, I feel good to know that a few months after I was told “basketball,” I “stick” it to them and score a game sealing goal in a Stanley Cup final; something they will never accomplish.