Fans hurl racist insults at Quebec minor league hockey player, harass family
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and offensive language
A minor league hockey player in Quebec voluntarily left the ice mid-game after fans hurled several racist taunts at him and harassed his family.
The incident occurred when Jonathan Diaby, a 24-year-old defenceman with the Jonquiere Marquis of the Ligue Nord-Americane de Hockey, received a penalty during the first period of his team’s game against the Saint-Jerome Petroliers du Nord in Saint-Jerome on Saturday.
While sitting in the penalty box, a fan climbed the boards and hurled racist insults at Diaby, which was caught on video. The fan also pulled out his phone to show Diaby pictures of a baboon. Security did not kick the fan out, but told him to move seats.
“Other people were saying: ‘You big n-----,’ and ‘You baboon,’ telling my dad to go back home,” Diaby told CTV Montreal on Tuesday. “At one point I was in the penalty box and I pulled my shirt over my face because I was almost crying.”
Other fans harassed Diaby's family, crowding around them, pushing his father and pouring beer on his girlfriend.
“When it comes down to my family in the stands and people I love, I can’t condone that,” Diaby said.
Diaby received another penalty later in the game, but chose to leave the game instead of going to the penalty box for a second time. He and his family left before the game ended.
Diaby said this is hardly the first time he’s dealt with racism on the ice.
“I’m a black person in a white man’s sport, so this happens every day,” he said.
Jean-Francois Laplante, the league’s commissioner, apologized for the incident in a Facebook video.
“Racist, sexist and homophobic comments are unacceptable and intolerable,” he says in the clip.
Other players in the league have stepped forward in support of Diaby, who’s being described as a talented player who should be a draw for fans.
"It's 2019. All racism, homophobia, all cultural and social hatred, leave that at home,” said William Lacasse, who plays for the Riviere-du-Loup 3L. “Come out and encourage us to play.”
Former NHLer Georges Laraque said he was shocked by the incident.
"There were 1,250 people in the stands and nobody did anything to stop that," he said. "If there’s minority kids watching that game and his dream is to play in the NHL, and they seeing this happening, what do you think they’re going to do? He's going to not want to play hockey, they're going to quit.”
Hockey’s recent history of racism
Hockey has a long history with racism in both the professional and amateur ranks. Last May, a team of First Nations youth and their families were called a “gang of savages” while at a tournament in Quebec City.
In 2014, then-Montreal Canadiens star P.K. Subban was subjected to racist slurs during a playoff game against the Boston Bruins in which he scored twice.
Last month, Subban sent an uplifting video to a teenage hockey player who was dealing with racism in the Detroit-area.