NHL condemns racial abuse of Capitals player

Devante Smith-Pelly of the Washington Capitals was subjected to racist taunts by four male fans at Chicago's United Center

The National Hockey League reacted with condemnation on Sunday after Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly was racially abused during his team's road game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Smith-Pelly, who is African-American, was subjected to racist taunts by four male fans on Saturday at Chicago's United Center while he served a penalty for fighting. The fans were swiftly ejected from the venue.

"Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Sunday.

"The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.

"While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games."

The Blackhawks meanwhile apologised for the incident.

"We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends out games and these actions will never be tolerated," the team said.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after the game Smith-Pelly had been a "little upset" by the taunts.

"There's absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism," Trotz said. "I think it's disgusting."

In a separate statement, the Capitals praised the Blackhawks handling of the incident.

"The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism," the team said.

"Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."