Roy Burton of The Broad Street Line weighs in with his opinion on the Wayne Simmonds and Sean Avery situation.
Right is right. And wrong is most certainly wrong.
In a preseason game in London, Ontario, Canada last Thursday, an object landed on the ice as Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds prepared for his shootout attempt against the Detroit Red Wings.
A banana peel.
With Simmonds being one of the few black players in the NHL, it doesn’t take much dot-connecting to figure out that the banana peel was a thinly-veiled allusion to Simmonds’ race.
What that fan did to Simmonds was wrong.
On Monday night, during an altercation with New York Rangers forward Sean Avery, Simmonds allegedly called Avery a homophobic slur.
What Simmonds said to Avery was wrong.
Obviously, there’s far more historical context behind what happened to Simmonds as opposed to what he said to Avery, but neither action should be tolerated more than the other.
There are certain words that – for a variety of reasons – should never be said. There are certain actions that – for a number of different reasons – none of us should ever do. Individually, we may have varying reactions to these events, but collectively, we all pretty much agree on what a normal person would deem offensive.
It doesn’t matter that Avery won’t win any popularity contests any time soon – hateful speech and actions are wrong, regardless of the context. And ignorance is no excuse, either: there are far too many avenues of knowledge these days to remain blind to the truth.
It’s clear that Simmonds reacted in the heat of the moment, a stark contrast to Thursday’s act where the fan planned his or her stunt well in advance (no one just “happens” to bring bananas with them to a preseason hockey game). The fact remains that it was completely unacceptable for Simmonds to use that word, just as it was wrong for Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah to use the same word earlier this year.
The NHL dropped the figurative puck in their response to the banana peel last week. Perhaps this latest episode will motivate them to effect positive change against discrimination in their sport and, ideally, beyond.
Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s nothing preventing any of us from reacting with the exact same vitriol to incidents such as these two involving Wayne Simmonds. Those who deal in hateful words and actions do so in an attempt to impose their will upon others. In reality, the real power belongs to us.
Roy Burton is the co-host of “The Broad Street Line”, a weekly sports podcast on BlogTalkRadio (Check It Out Here). He also serves as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and covers the Sixers for Section215.com – you can read his work at http://thetwofifteen.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TheBSLine.