Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was a target last week when a fan tossed a banana peel at him during an exhibition game in London, Ontario. One of roughly two dozen black NHL players, Simmonds showed great composure as the peel hit the ice in the midst of a penalty shot — he scored.
"When you're a black man playing in a predominantly white man's sport, you've got to come to expect things like that," Simmonds told reporters afterward.
But Monday, Simmonds proved to be just as ignorant as the fan by calling New York Rangers forward Sean Avery a "(bleeping) f—-ot." At least that's what Avery claims he was called, and various videos appear to back him up. Immediately after the game, Simmons said repeatedly that he "(could not) recall every single word" he uttered, while also implying that Avery deserved whatever for being one of the league's most despised instigators.
"I might've said some things he didn't like," Simmonds said. "It's Sean Avery; come on now."
A not-so-funny thing happened the next day, though, when Simmonds appeared for a hearing at league offices: He categorically denied ever using a gay slur. The NHL ruled Tuesday that he won't be disciplined because of lack of conclusive evidence or corroborating testimony.
I'm not an expert lip reader, but Avery's assertion appears accurate to me. It also makes sense that Simmonds might go there, based on Avery's outspoken support of same-sex marriage.
The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 and Jokaim Noah $50,000 this spring for uttering gay epithets, respectively, to a ref and a fan. Both players were caught on camera and admitted their offense. But Simmonds, apparently unwilling to fess up and lacking confidence in his "can't remember" strategy, got over by issuing a flat-out denial.
His experiences as a racial minority in a white's man sport should make Simmonds more sensitive to gay male athletes surrounded by straight male athletes. It's crazy for him to take offense at racial slurs on the ice if he feels free to use gay slurs there.
It's not that hard to call an opponent out his name, cussing him up and down to your heart's content. Just stay away from references to race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Failure to do so should result in a fine. Simmonds was lucky to get away this time, though the NHL should have nailed him.
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