Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith was suspended from an Ontario Hockey League playoff game last week for giving the middle finger to the opposing bench, but before and after that incident he was subjected to racial slurs and threats, according to his team.
The 20-year-old, who is black, set up the game winner for the Kitchener Rangers in Game 6 of their playoff series with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last Sunday. As he was going to the bench, he flipped off the opposing team.
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They'll play for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy in the Western Conference Final following a 4-2 second round #OHLPlayoffs win.
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"There were threats, physical threats after Game 6," Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie said, according to the Waterloo Region Record. "Before we went up to 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."
According to the newspaper, the Rangers received a police escort from the airport, and Smith watched Monday's Game 7 from the press box with a security guard posted at the door.
"We took the step to provide security over and above what we would normally do for a game," OHL commissioner David Branch said, according to the Record. "We wanted to make sure Givani was comfortable and certainly hopefully free from any challenge or issue."
McKenzie said the Rangers heard racial slurs from the stands throughout the series.
"It's heartbreaking to be honest," McKenzie said, according to the Record. "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."
Smith was selected by the Red Wings in the second round of the 2016 draft.
Rangers coach Jay McKee told the Record that he knows what Smith went through, prompting his outburst after Game 6.
"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," he said.