Banana thrown at Simmonds

NHL referee Don Van Massenhoven carries a banana thrown at Flyers player Wayne Simmonds during a...

NHL referee Don Van Massenhoven carries a banana thrown at Flyers player Wayne Simmonds during a pre-season game in London, Ont., on Thursday. (Craig Glover/QMI Agency)

JENNIFER O'BRIEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:21 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was the victim of what has been described as a racist attack after someone threw a banana at him during a pre-season game in London, Ont., Thursday night.

While it’s still unknown who threw the banana, or where they were from, the fruit throw has attracted widespread media attention.

The banana was thrown at Simmonds during a shootout.

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 some headlines across North America suggest it was.

“Ontario fan throws banana at Wayne Simmonds in shameful racist display,” NBC Sports said.

London Mayor Joe Fontana has asked anyone who knows who threw the banana to out the person. On a talk radio show Friday, he said it's “unacceptable,” and 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, who also penned a letter of apology to Simmonds.

“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,” reads a statement issued by the the president of Comcast-Spectacor, the company that both manages the arena and owns the Flyers

“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 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.”

Some are questioning why the banana-thrower has yet to be outed.

“Let's be serious here. You can't have (7,500) people at the John Labatt Centre, an d— in that section where that person was, at least 20 people — without anybody seeing anything," said Kevin Weekes, a former NHL goalie, now a broadcaster with Hockey Night in Canada.

"That's the craziest thing I've ever heard. It's not like people were watching the game in the pitch darkness," said Weekes, also a black player who had a banana thrown at him during a game in 2002. "The onus is on some of the fellow citizens to say something."

Simmonds said in a statement he wants to put the incident behind him.

"It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff. This is something that is obviously out of my control," he said.

jennifer.obrien@sunmedia.ca


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