At Saturday’s game between the Jonquiere Marquis and the St. Jerome Petroliers du Nord in Quebec’s North American Hockey League, Marquis player Jonathan-Ismael Diaby was targeted by racist opposing fans, who taunted him and his family and forced them to leave the game early.
Diaby, who was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2013, said in his interview with CTV News in Montreal that he was called a “big nigger,” among other racist taunts. The fans told his father, “Go back home. You don’t belong here.”
Here’s a description of what happened, via CTV:
When Diaby, who is black, was sent to the penalty box in the first period the so-called ‘fans’ began shouting racist insults.
One racist kept up a stream of invectives for several minutes as he leaned over the sides of the penalty box to harass Diaby, and waved his arms like a gorilla and showed Diaby images of a baboon on his phone.
Others in the stands said Diaby should be eating bananas.
Players on the ice noticed the harassment and told the racists to stop, but the men continued with their taunts.
They also harassed Diaby’s family, with several people crowding around them, pushing and hitting his father and pouring beer on his girlfriend.
Diaby was sent to the box again in the second period, but elected to serve his penalty in the dressing room instead. The Marquis captain reportedly asked the officials to take action against the fans, and to set up security for Diaby when he exited the arena, but that didn’t happen. Later in the second period, Diaby went into the stands to join his family, and they left before the game ended.
“Security didn’t do nothing,” Diaby said. “They asked my family to just leave. They asked them to just change places so they could have a quiet game.”
Local politicians condemned the racism, as did the Montreal Canadiens. NAHL Commissioner Jean-Francois Laplante apologized to Diaby in a video posted on Facebook. According to CBC, the St. Jerome Petroliers du Nord are trying to identify the fans responsible, but on Saturday, none of them were kicked out of the arena.
This incident comes less than a year after a First Nations youth hockey team playing in the Coupe Challenge Quebec received racist taunts from opposing spectators, players, and at least one coach.
“I play hockey. I’m a black person in a white man’s sport,” Diaby said to CTV. “This happens every day.”