Author: Steven Lewis

“Basketball!” Deconstruction of a Hockey Game Taunt

On February 17, 2018, four fans at a Chicago Blackhawks ice hockey game yelled “Basketball! Basketball! Basketball!” at the Washington Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly, who was sitting in the penalty box. Smith-Pelly is black, and security officers removed the taunters from the arena on the grounds that the taunt was racist. Subsequently, the United Center banned them from all events, and the Blackhawks formally apologized to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals. National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman condemned the fans’ behavior, the incident prompted widespread coverage in the media, and the predictable torrent of on-line commentary followed. It's disturbing something like this happened to Devante Smith-Pelly. It's perhaps more disturbing that I've received tweets since last night wondering what's so bad about chanting "basketball" at a black NHLer. We all know the meaning/intent there. https://t.co/EIVpfgrzpv — Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) February 18, 2018 But was the taunt racist? Smith-Pelly certainly thought so, citing it as yet another example of the abuse to which he and his 30 fellow black NHL players have been subjected throughout their careers. In his …