Hockey Fight: "Did He Call You What We Think He Called You?"
BY Lucas Grindley
September 27 2011 2:45 PM ET
Marriage equality supporter Sean Avery of the New York Rangers appears to have been called a gay slur during a preseason game Monday night during a fight with Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds.
Video footage catches Simmonds screaming "fucking faggot" across the ice, but there is no sound. Avery said he heard the words.
"Did he call you what we think he called you?" a reporter asked Avery, according to a transcript posted by the Daily Times of Delaware County, Pa.
“Well, yeah,” he confirms.
For his part, Simmonds said he can't remember "every single word I said."
"Honestly, we were going back and forth for a while there and I don't recall every single thing that I did say to him," Simmonds told reporters after the game, the interview recorded in a video. "He said some things to me that I didn't like. And I said some things that he didn't like. But I don't recall every single word I said."
Ahead of a vote on marriage equality in New York, Avery partnered with the Human Rights Campaign to make a video supporting the proposed change.
"I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated and that applies to marriage," Avery said in the video.
He experienced some immediate backlash from others in the National Hockey League afterward. But Avery said he didn't know whether the slur was in response to his support for marriage equality, noting that the kind of language Simmonds used has "been said for years."
In fact, Flyers scout Patrick Burke spoke out against homophobia in hockey in a column on Outsports that was about his brother, Brendan Burke, an openly gay manager of the Miami Redhawks NCAA men's hockey team who died in a car accident in 2010.
"The hockey establishment must do a better job of establishing a safe haven for gay athletes," Patrick Burke wrote. "We need to work on ending the use of homophobic slurs as an insult."
Simmonds, who is black, had earlier this month been the target of bigotry on the ice when a banana was thrown at him from the stands, setting off an outrage that included a statement from the NHL condemning it.
"I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact I'm black," he told reporters, according to Sports Illustrated. "I certainly hope not. When you're black, you kind of expect [racist] things. You learn to deal with it."
The NHL has not responded to the incident. Players in the NBA have been fined for using gay slurs while on the court.
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