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The Strange Saga Of A Supposed NHL Racial Taunt Ends In A One-Game Suspension
On New Year’s Eve, Krys Barch of the Florida Panthers was ejected from a game against the Montreal Canadiens. After initial confusion as to why, it was revealed that the ejection was due to an alleged racial slur toward the Canadiens’ P.K. Subban, who is black. Even though Subban himself said he didn’t hear a slur, there was no more confusion. You hear a racial slur – a racial slur in a league where every racial incident will be magnified because of the lack of black players, a league where another black player had a banana peel thrown at him, no less – you eject the guy who used it.
But then, things got weirder. Of course, Barch got a semi-endorsement from his coach, who called his player “broken up” over the “insinuation that something inappropriate was said.” He got an endorsement from his agent, who said his client “did no wrong.” But you’d expect to hear those kinds of things even if Barch did say what most thought he said when the “racial slur” news came out – that is, an N-bomb. But as it turned out, that wasn’t what Barch was suspended a game for saying. No, that would be this:
Barch was suspended for making a reference to “slipping on a banana peel” after Subban tumbled to the ice in an altercation with Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, multiple sources confirmed to Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday.
Still, one could see how this would be a problem. After all, we just referenced a “black player getting a banana peel thrown at him” incident earlier in this post. It can be a racially-charged term. That’s the issue, though – it can be, but in this case, was it? According to Puck Daddy:
[A] former NHLer texted us this morning to say it’s “commonly used when a guy goes down in purpose in a fight to avoid getting his ass kicked.”
This controversy is way, way messier than anyone expected it to be when it broke, and weirdly, that’s a good thing. As of right now, there seems to be a pretty good chance that Barch didn’t mean to hit Subban with anything more than a standard hockey taunt. If that’s the case, it’s too bad he’ll be suspended a game, but like Barry Petchesky said over at Deadspin, this is all about sending a message. You use any form of racial taunt, the league will come down on you, period.
Just because this one incident might not be as bad as it looked like at first doesn’t mean the problem is over, and if the suspension leads to some fans bemoaning the ruination the PC police are inviting upon their game, so be it. There’s always going to be trash talk, but when it gets personal, it gets ugly fast, so we can’t totally blame the refs for kicking Barch out and the NHL suspending him a game, even when the meaning of what he did was ambiguous. Going forward, maybe this will be a learning experience for everyone…and that’s one more time today than we figured we’d be talking about a hockey spat as a learning experience.
Getty photo, by Joel Auerbach
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