Racist hockey fans taunt black player and family
Bigots attending a hockey game in Saint-Jerome on Saturday hurled racist taunts and insults at a black player.
Jonathan Diaby, 24, plays for the Jonquiere Marquis in the North American Hockey League. On Saturday the team was playing the St. Jerome Petroliers du Nord when people in the stands began harassing both Diaby and his family.
When Diaby, who is black, was sent to the penalty box in the first period the so-called 'fans' began shouting racist insults.
One racist kept up a stream of invectives for several minutes as he leaned over the sides of the penalty box to harass Diaby, and waved his arms like a gorilla and showed Diaby images of a baboon on his phone.
Others in the stands said Diaby should be eating bananas.
Players on the ice noticed the harassment and told the racists to stop, but the men continued with their taunts.
They also harassed Diaby's family, with several people crowding around them, pushing and hitting his father and pouring beer on his girlfriend.
At one point dozens of people surrounded Diaby's father and girlfriend as he told the bigots to be respectful.
In the second period Diaby was hit in the face with a stick and the referee sent him to the penalty box again -- but instead, Diaby waited out the time in the dressing room in hopes of minimizing the torment.
During the game the Marquis's captain asked the referee to intervene, and to make sure Diaby would be escorted by security guards out of the arena. That did not happen.
Diaby left the game during the second period and went to join his family in the stands, and they left the arena before the game ended.
Diaby said that despite reports, he and his loved ones did not get escorted out by police. Instead they were left to defend themselves as they went away.
Support from officials, players
Announcers covering the game noticed the harassment and insults and said they had seen similar behaviour earlier in the season.
The commissioner of the NAHL apologized to Diaby with a video posted to social media, saying that racist, sexist, and homophobic taunts were not acceptable.
"I want to apologize to Jonathan Diaby and to members of his family," said Jean-Francois Laplante.
He added the insults came from a small group at Saturday's game but said they were unacceptable and would not be tolerated.
"Intolerance of differences is based in ignorance. To fight this problem we have to denounce it and discuss it, and it's for this reason that I invite you to share this video," said Laplante.
Since then several players on the Petroliers and other teams have stepped forward to support Diaby and his family, saying that he is a skilled player that fans should enjoy watching.
William Lacasse who plays for the Riviere-du-Loup 3L, said people should have learned to accept others by now.
"It's 2019. All racism, homophobia, all cultural and social hatred, leave that at home. Come out and encourage us to play," said Lacasse.
Former NHLer Georges Laraque said he was shocked to see this type of behaviour still going on in arenas.
"There were 1,250 people in the stands and nobody did anything to stop that. What is that, endorsing it?" he said. "If there is a minority kid watching that game, and his dream is to play hockey, what do you think he's going to do? He's going to not want to play hockey, they're going to quit."
Hockey's history with racism
Over the course of hockey history, there's been numerous examples of racism at games at both the professional and amateur level. In May, players for a First Nations team taking part in a tournament in Quebec City were subjected to racist taunts from spectators, opposing players and an opposing coach.
During a playoff series between the Canadiens and Bruins in 2014, then-Hab P.K. Subban was the subject of online racist slurs after scoring twice in a win. Subban's not alone in being a black NHLer who has been targeted because of his race. Wayne Simmonds, then of the Flyers, had a banana thrown at him during a pre-season game in 2011 and Washington Capital Joel Ward was called racist epiphets online in 2012.