Red Wings prospect Givani Smith target of racial slurs

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Red Wings prospect Givani Smith endured racial slurs, threats and abuse in his team’s playoff series against Sault Ste. Marie in late April.

Smith, 20, who is black, was suspended for Game 7 of the OHL Western Conference final series — which his Kitchener team lost — after making “an inappropriate gesture” toward the Greyhounds’ bench.

Smith was inundated on social media with racial slurs and insults after the Game 6 incident, according to Saturday’s Waterloo Region Record, and also received a death threat.

“There were threats, physical threats after Game 6,” Kitchener general manager Mike McKenzie told The Record. “Before we went up the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with.”

Smith, a 2016 second-round pick (46th overall) who will begin his professional career with the Grand Rapids Griffins next season, did not comment for the story.

The Rangers needed a police escort from the Soo airport to their Sault Ste. Marie hotel, and from the hotel to the arena for Game 7.

Smith watched Game 7 from the press box with a security guard at the door.

“We took the step to provide security over and above what we would normally do for a game,” David Branch, OHL commissioner, told The Record. “We wanted to make sure Givani was comfortable and certainly hopefully free from any challenge or issue.”

McKenzie told the newspaper during the regular season, in Sarnia, a fan tried to get at Smith in Kitchener’s dressing room.

“It was a game where he (Smith) had been sent to the room early because he had a misconduct,” McKenzie said. “The fan poked his head in and yelled a racial slur down the hall. I’m not going to repeat it but it wasn’t good.”

Smith’s agent G.P. Daniele told The Record his player heard racial insults from Sarnia and Sault Ste. Marie players in the playoffs.

“It’s heartbreaking, to be honest,” McKenzie told The Record. “He shouldn’t have to endure it. He did a good job of turning the other way. I think the unfortunate part — and it pains me to say this — is that he’s probably used to it by now. He’s probably heard things before, which is brutal.”

Kyle Raftis, Soo general manager, told the newspaper he wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing by his players, and worked with Kitchener and the OHL in arranging Smith’s security for Game 7, and said, “nobody from any walk of life should have to go through that."