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Is this 2011?

September 23 2011 at 1:09 PM
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LONDON, ONT. - A shocking incident with racial overtones at the John Labatt Centre Thursday night has put London in the international spotlight.

During a pre-season game against the Detroit Red Wings in London, black Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was the victim of an apparent racist attack when someone threw a banana at him during a shootout.

While it's still unknown who threw the banana, or whether that person was from London or not, the incident has garnered local, national and international headlines.

Simmonds, who is originally from Toronto, still managed to score on his attempt and later told reporters he didn't know if the incident was related to the fact he is black.

"I've never had a banana thrown at me before," he said after the game.

"That's a first for me. I guess it's something I obviously have to deal with -- being a black player playing in a predominantly white sport. I've grown a lot playing in this league and throughout my whole life. I'm not going to dwell on that. It's over with now."

But headlines across North America suggest otherwise.

"Ontario fan throws banana at Wayne Simmonds in shameful racist display," says NBC Sports.

"Fan tosses banana peel at black NHL player," says Fox News.

"Banana peel tossed at Flyers' Simmonds during preseason matchup with Red Wings in London, Ontario," says the Washington Post.

Headlines across Canada -- from Calgary to Montreal -- also focused on the incident.

Mayor Joe Fontana has asked anyone who knows who threw the banana to out the person. On a talk radio shoe Friday, he called the incident "unacceptable," adding whoever threw the banana is an "idiot."

"The minimum I would expect is a public apology, and also a banning from the sports venue," said Fontana.

In a statement released late Thursday night, the president of Comcast-Spectacor -- the company that both manages the JLC and owns the Flyers -- avoided the racist overtones.

"It appeared as though a fan threw an object onto the ice during the shootout. Unfortunately, we weren't able to identify the individual. We certainly don't condone such a foolish act (like this) as a player could potentially be seriously injured," the statement said. "The Flyers consider this our 'home away from home' and that's because this city, the fans and this spectacular arena have been so supportive of the Philadelphia Flyers."

NHL Hockey Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement as well.

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


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