Red Wings prospect Givani Smith became a victim of racism and faced death threats by opposing fans. As a result of this vile behavior by the fans, the black player and his team had to be given a security escort and a personal guard from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the final playoff game.
It all started when Smith, the Kitchener Rangers forward, gave the middle finger to his opposing Greyhounds’ bench at Game 6 when his Kitchener team lost. As a result, he was suspended by the Ontario Hockey League for two games.
Since then, the 20-year-old player’s social media was bombarded with racial slurs and life-threatening messages. And the racism had started even before the game - which ultimately lead the player to make the inappropriate gesture.
“There were threats, physical threats after Game 6,” said Kitchener Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie. “Before we went up the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with,” he added.
Smith did not play Game 7.
However, he was at the arena to watch the final. In order to avoid any unforeseen situation, the Rangers were given a police escort from the Soo airport to their Sault Ste. Marie hotel and from there to the arena for Game 7.
“It’s heartbreaking to be honest,” McKenzie lamented. “He shouldn’t have to endure it. He did a good job of turning the other way. I think the unfortunate part — and it pains me to say this — is that he’s probably used to it by now. He’s probably heard things before, which is brutal.”
The Red Wings prospect, who is going to start his professional career with the Grand Rapids Griffins next season, watched Game 7 from the press box. A security guard was standing at his door for his protection.
“We took the step to provide security over and above what we would normally do for a game," OHL commissioner David Branch explained. "We wanted to make sure Givani was comfortable and certainly hopefully free from any challenge or issue.”
Rangers coach Jay McKee called Smith's reaction was "an emotional mistake" and "something he's going to learn from."
"But I know a lot of what he went through that led to that," he said. "It certainly doesn't condone breaking a league rule, but a small part of me can sympathize and have an understanding why he let his emotions get the best of him."
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Reuters, David W Cerny