We asked five of our sportswriters here at the Toronto Observer to pen their thoughts on the “banana incident”. Here is Adam Martin’s. We also present T.J. Llewellyn’s, Mike Woodrow’s, Jonathan Brazeau’s and Ryan Fines’.
The Wayne Simmonds banana peel (or full-banana) throwing incident that occurred during Thursday night’s contest in London, Ont., between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red wings is proof Canada doesn’t exist in a vacuum when it comes to racism.
Make no doubt about it, the idiot who threw the banana clearly did so with racial overtones in mind. Maybe he was trying to be funny, maybe he was trying to rile up the crowd. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. It was blatantly racist.
It also wasn’t the NHL’s first banana throwing episode. It’s rare, but the last time it happened was in 2002, when Carolina Hurricanes goalie Kevin Weekes was the victim of a banana being tossed at him in Montreal.
That this last incident also happened in Canada is significant.
It shows that, despite Canada’s reputation as a country of equality and cohesiveness (what some term a ‘cultural mosaic’) there are still people in this society who conform to ancient, ignorant attitudes of bigotry and racism.
While the United States is often vilified for the inherent racism rooted in that country’s history, with its foundation being built on the pillars of slavery, Canada is always given a pass as the quiet, unassuming neighbour who does no wrong.
But that’s no exactly fair to say.
After all, Canada was originally inhabited by groups of indigenous peoples who were forced out to make room for French and later British settlers.
Some people are arguing the incident shows that it is hockey culture itself that is racist, something NHL commissioner Gary Bettman disputed in a statement, saying “the obviously stupid and arrogant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans.”
Others will back up that claim with the fact there are very few black players in the NHL (roughly 20). But that’s not necessarily because the culture of hockey won’t accept them.
It has more to do with the fact that hockey is a very expensive sport to play, and black families, who in some areas are at the lower end of the financial stratosphere, cannot afford to enroll their kids in it.
While this demonstrates that hockey is an elitist society, that doesn’t mean it’s a racist one.
I’m not trying to say that everyone in Canada is a racist, because that would be plain wrong.
But this incident should shed light on the idea this country isn’t as sweet and innocent as many seem to think. In that sense, Canada isn’t any different from any other country in the world.
But at least these incidents seem to occur with less frequency here.