On Sunday, October 9, 2022, Steve Simmons made comments that received significant backlash from the hockey world. Simmons stated, “[n]o one wants to say this because of the politically correct police and all, but those who coached Akim Aliu must cringe every time they see him in the news report or a commercial talking about what’s wrong with hockey. Like he would know. By my count, Aliu played for 23 teams in nine different leagues in 12 professional seasons and rarely finished any season with the same team he started with. If that was colour-related, how is it that Wayne Simmonds spent just about the same 12 seasons playing in the NHL.” Simmons effectively accused Aliu, the chair of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, of not being able to know what’s wrong with hockey.
In his response to Simmons’s comments, Aliu stated, “[t]he only reason I’m addressing this is because it’s all over the internet. I’ve seen Steve talk negatively about me for some time now and the funny thing is I’ve never spoken to him, or met him in my life. I actually found out what he said through other members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. People like Steve are what’s wrong with society. This is the first time in history the crucial conversation of race is prevalent. I believe my story and what the HDA is doing is a major reason for that.” Aliu went on to recount several racist experiences he faced throughout his career, which Simmons dismissed in his column.
Aliu ended his response with a powerful statement: “You are a racist, and you are arrogant. You have zero credibility and respect from even your own peers in the media space and athletes alike. And if The Toronto Sun had any integrity whatsoever, you’d never write another column again. Once again, I’m going to tell you, you will never divide us. We’re just going to be stronger together.” As of now, there is no information regarding what, if any, discipline Simmons will face as a result of his comments, however, it appears more than likely that there will be significant consequences.
Wayne Simmonds also responded to Simmons’s comments in a series of tweets. Simmonds stated, “[y]ou are minimizing the pain and suffering and dismissing the actual fight that we as a ppl actually have to endure just to even be accepted in the game of hockey at a lower level nvm the professional ranks. DO NOT EVER use my name or any other player of colour’s name to try and make your point. We will no longer sit by quietly as our characters are assassinated Steve! This will only make us stronger and speak out against ppl of your nature! If you were trying to be cool or funny, you missed your mark. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!! Ps this is me being nice!” Simmons attempted use of the “good player/bad player” analogy to argue race was not received fondly by anyone within the game of hockey.
Nazem Kadri, a player who notably endured racist comments during the Colorado Avalanche’s recent Stanley Cup run, also chimed in on Simmons’s comments. Kadri stated, “It’s unfortunate when a guy like that tries to discredit somebody and, you know, act like they’ve been there and know it [experiencing racism in hockey], which obviously isn’t the case. He’d be the last guy to know anything about that.”
While it has not yet been determined if Simmons will face any consequences from these comments, many are hopeful he will not be able to write for The Toronto Sun anymore. A significant number of people took to Twitter in response, calling for Simmons’s termination. Simmons has long been known as a somewhat controversial reporter, but he likely crossed the line with these comments. There is no place in the game for racism, and hopefully Simmons is punished for these comments. It may be necessary to set an example to other reporters. As the game of hockey attempts to diversify and become more accessible to all, it is necessary to ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable, free from unnecessary criticism and harsh treatment from media, other players, and staff based on race.
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