Racism in sport continue to rear its ugly head, this time surfacing in the Czech Republic. Philadelphia Flyers' winger Wayne Simmons, an Black Canadian, has been playing hockey for the club LIberec of the Czech Extraligua during the NHL lockout. During a recent game, he was serenaded with chants of "Opice! Opice! Opice!" (translation: monkey) by a small, but vocal group of fans of the rival team.
The opposing team has apologized via a letter on the team's website, but now the city has decided to take control of this matter themselves.
According to a Czech website, eight fans who allegedly perpetrated the incident were arrested and charged with "misdemeanor disorderly conduct and defamation of nation, race or ethnic groups." The face a hearing on January 9, 2013 and their sentences could carry a maximum of three years in prison.
The site states that the fans have dubbed themselves the "Black Commandos" as they dress in black hooded sweatshirts and a scarf at games. Some of the accused fans said they joined the "monkey" chants, but didn't start them, while others claim the were not involved at all.
Regardless of the outcome, it is a positive indicator that these despicable acts have been deemed worthy of prosecution under the law. Hopefully, if nothing else, the threat of facing jail time for making such remarks will act as a deterrent and allow athletes of all nationalities and races to compete without harassment.
Simmons has recently left the team, returning to Canada for "personal reasons". Czech teammate Chris Stewart, who is also black, left the team as well, citing a lack of playing time.
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