Caps fans say Islanders fans vandalized car, crossed line

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Nassau County Police Department is looking into a reported vandalism incident stemming from Sunday's game between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.

A Nassau County Police Department public information officer confirmed to ESPN.com that after the Islanders' 2-1 victory Sunday, a police report was filed by a Capitals fan who said he found his vehicle keyed and his Maryland license plate taken from the rear of his Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot adjacent to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The incident was one of many complaints by a contingent of New York-based Capitals fans who attended Game 3 on Sunday.

According to the group, they were also subjected to racist and anti-gay remarks and otherwise threatening, profane and abusive language.

One Caps fan named Fatou, who works in advertising sales in New York, told ESPN.com that she was subjected to racially-charged comments by a pair of fans who told her she had "nappy black hair" and "to go home."

Fatou, who preferred to withhold her full name, said she has no problem with heckling in general. In fact, she embraces and expects it when going into an opposing stadium.

But she said that this level of abuse, by a certain group of Islanders fans, crossed a line.

"All of us expected to be booed. We expected 'F-U!!' [chants], 'go home!' [chants], that's what we expected. They're passionate. Nobody is upset about getting booed at," Fatou said. "That wasn't the issue. It just got a little too crazy. Thank God there wasn't any legit violence."

According to a statement released by SMG, the Coliseum's building management company, the Coliseum security staff has been made aware of the situation and will adjust accordingly in hopes of preventing future incidents.

"We are sorry to hear about this group's experience. The safety and enjoyment of patrons is always our top priority. Our security detail and presence was increased significantly for the playoffs. After every game, we re-evaluate our plan and staffing levels with local police and security officials. This process is currently in motion. It is our goal to ensure that each one of our patrons will have the best possible overall experience at the Coliseum."

In response to the incidents Sunday, the Islanders also issued the following statement:

"We are disappointed by the reported actions of a select group of fans that attended Game 3 on Sunday afternoon. The alleged racist or homophobic remarks directed at several Washington Capitals fans are by no means associated with or supported by the New York Islanders organization. Islanders fans, who are made up of the best of the world's melting pot, are some of the most respectful, passionate and knowledgeable in the NHL. The inappropriate actions of a few individuals does not represent Islanders fans as a whole. We expect our fans to continue to be the loudest and most respectful fans in the NHL.

The incidents first came to light when 34-year-old freelance photographer Nate "Igor" Smith posted about the experience on his blog.

Reached by telephone on Monday afternoon, he said he was disappointed by what had happened to his friends, both the comments hurled at Fatou and the vandalism to his friend Justin's car.

When contacted by ESPN, the victim of the vandalism incident said he was told it was "very unlikely" that the perpetrator would be found.

Justin, who preferred to withhold his last name out of concern for further retribution, said the day was "a bad fan experience all around."

He did say, however, that multiple Islanders fans have since reached out and offered to donate to help him repair the damage. He said he plans to pass along those donations instead to Nassau County Public Schools.

Smith also said there were plenty of respectful Islanders fans with whom they interacted, but that the bad apples ultimately soured the day.

"There were absolutely a lot of really good Islander fans, even ones that were talking smack but were good-natured about it," Smith told ESPN.com.

"I enjoy that stuff. If I didn't, I wouldn't go [to opposing rinks]. I think it's their responsibility to berate visitors to an extent, but it's when it comes to violence, vandalizing cars, throwing things at people, that crosses the line."

Smith did say that it was a pair of Islanders fans who helped his friend call the police to report the vandalism. They told the Caps group that their day had been ruined as well after hearing how their fellow Islanders fans had conducted themselves.

Longtime Islanders fan Michael Schuerlein, who grew up in Bethpage and now lives in Easthampton, said he was really disheartened to hear what happened.

"I personally didn't see what supposedly transpired, but I'm disgusted," Schuerlein told ESPN.com when reached by phone.

Voice still raspy from screaming in support of his team during Sunday's Game 3 victory, Schuerlein said he hopes this isolated incident does not reflect on what is a loyal, committed fan base as a whole.

"We're a passionate group of fans. We've been looking for success for so long and we've dealt with so many things... We don't want to be viewed as a group of people who should be feared," he explained. "I can go into the [Madison Square] Garden and yeah, I'm gonna get razzed, but I don't feel like I'm going to get my ass kicked. I don't want anyone to feel like that.

"By and large, we're a normal group of people. Just because a few drunk people act like bigots doesn't mean that's the case for everyone from Long Island."