TORONTO — Add Morgan Rielly to the growing list of NHL players condemning the racist taunt made by Andrei Denyskin.
During a stoppage in play Sunday, the Ukrainian Hockey League player shouted at Donbass defenceman Jalen Smereck, who is Black, and then mimed unpeeling a banana and eating it.
Denyskin was ejected from the game.
The clip went viral, and multiple NHL players denounced Denyskin’s actions.
“Yeah, I saw it,” Toronto Maple Leafs alternate captain Morgan Rielly said Monday. “Obviously it was a horrible act. It was disgusting. I mean, there’s no place for that in our sport, but especially just in our society. In terms of what should be done about it, I don’t know. But I think there has to be action. And I think it’s just a sign that there’s more work to be done. I think it’s very clear. And when stuff like that happens, it just is terrible.”
Added Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell: “Of course, you don’t want to see that anywhere.”
The Maple Leafs players drove an initiative to wear “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts during their first media availability coming back from the pandemic pause in July 2020.
“I think it’s well established that none of those things are going to be tolerated and certainly wouldn’t be tolerated by me or our organization whatsoever,” Leafs coach Shledon Keefe said.
New IIHF president Luc Tardif called Denyskin’s racist actions “a direct assault on the ideals and values of our game” and announced the organization is committed to investigate the incident further.
“There is no place for such a blatantly racist and unsportsmanlike gesture in our sport and in society,” Tardif said. “We will ensure that all necessary ethics violation investigations occur to ensure that this behaviour is sanctioned appropriately.”
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Matheiu Joseph tweeted out the clip, writing: “Shouldn’t be [allowed] or given a chance to play hockey ever again. I am beyond disgusted. Hurts to watch. I cannot wait to hear the suspension.”
Deniskin addressed the incident on Instagram, writing that he made “a gesture that someone can consider as an insult in race” after his emotions got the better of him. Deniskin added that he respects “all people regardless of race or nationality.”
The severity of Denyskin’s punishment is still to be determined.