Why Gary Bettman, NHL Seriously Mishandled Wayne Simmonds Banana Debacle

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IISeptember 24, 2011

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 8:  Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Los Angeles Kings sets for a face off against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 8, 2011 in Anaheim, California.   (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I had to re-read the headline and make sure that it wasn't some kind of twisted joke coming off the AP Wire.  It just couldn't be accurate, could it?

That a fan of the NHL would throw a banana at an African-American baffles my mind.  Scratch the fact that this was a player on the ice during a hockey game.  The action was bad enough.  But I have found the response to be on the embarrassing side as well.

The support doesn't seem to be for Wayne Simmonds—at least not from the standpoint of the League and teams.  Instead, we saw several statements saying that not all NHL fans are like this, and it was the disappointing act of a jerk individual.

But where is the support structure for Simmonds from the league, who was embarrassed by a blatantly racist act while skating and playing in an NHL hockey game?  That's what I keep waiting for.  An apology.

Instead we got little tidbits like this from Gary Bettman:

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

OK, but where is the "I'm sorry this happened." I don't see this statement as a high ranking official sticking up for Simmonds and making sure that the act is deemed as unacceptable. I see it as a positive spin on something that Bettman wants to see go away as quickly as possible.

But I can't be the only fan or onlooker that has noticed how Simmonds has more or less acted like this is something that he has had to deal with before.  He seemed to shrug it off, saying "hey, this is the game for me.  I'm used to it."

I'm sorry, but that should in no way be the reality of the game for an African-American (or any minority for the matter) hockey player.  Perhaps, I am making too much of it.  I know it was an unfortunate isolated incident.

I would have liked to see a little more teeth in the league's response I suppose.  Simmonds has had a massive outpouring of support from the rest of the NHL and from some play-by-play guys.  But, to me, Bettman and Co. could have been sharper with their criticism of one of their few African-American players getting pegged with a banana during an NHL contest.