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A brief history of racist banana-throwing incidents in sports

Sep 23, 2011, 10:04 AM EDT


As you certainly know by now, someone threw a banana at black Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds during their game against the Red Wings on Thursday at neutral-site London, Ontario. Amazingly, this may not have been the first time it happened to Simmonds. And it’s certainly not the first time it’s happened in sports, as teams — particularly in European soccer — have had some trouble coming to grips with racist incidents through the years. A brief look look back:

German “racist banana” incident: A German teenager admitted throwing a banana onto the field in the direction of Brazil soccer star Neymar during a friendly with Scotland in March. First it was believed that the notorious Tartan Army, Scotland’s raucous rooting section, had flung the fruit, which caused all manner of controversy. When the teenager came forward, the Scottish Football Association demanded an apology, saying “Scotland supporters are known for impeccable behavior.” Everyone had a good laugh over that quote.

Mark Walters debut for Rangers FC. Walters became the first black player in the history of the Rangers with his debut on Jan. 2, 1988, in the Old Firm derby match with Celtic at Parkhead, Scotland. Celtic fans marked the occasion by throwing bananas and making monkey noises, with some even wearing tuxedos — or “monkey suits” — to the match. From Wikipedia: Meanwhile, during the same game, in defence of Walters, Rangers’ fans, with an unconscious racism, sang “I’d rather be a darkie than a Tim (Scots-Irish catholic)”. In the video below, the bananas are shown beginning at about the 2:28 mark. Amazingly, the announcer seems oblivious to the racial implications: “Well the game was slightly held up while some assortment of fruit was removed from the pitch. You can see it there, just in front of The Jungle.” The Scottish Football Association remained silent on the incident.

The shame of Montreal. The Simmonds incident isn’t the first in the NHL. In 2002, a banana was thrown onto the ice near Carolina Hurricanes goalies Kevin Weekes as his team was leaving the ice after a 2-1 loss to Montreal in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoff series at the Molson Centre. Weekes: “I love playing in this building and playing against the Canadiens. I won’t let that dim my experience at all. There were 20,000 people and I’m sure 99 out of 100 are good-natured people compared to one percent of fools.”

From Russia With Hate. Another Brazilian player, Roberto Carlos, walked off the pitch and said he considered retirement when a banana was thrown at his feet during a soccer match in Samara, Russia. Carlos was playing for the Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala. Carlos: “You know when that sadness hits, that feeling of being powerless? I left there sad, hurt. So many kids there. That has to be banned from football. When I got to the locker rooms the guys hugged me and sang for me. It was a very interesting thing. The guys on the team really like me.”

Russia strikes again. In 2010, the Lokomotiv Moscow soccer team sold Peter Odemwingie, who is Nigerian, in the transfer window. Their fans celebrated during the next game with a banner showing a banana and the message: “Thanks West Brom”. From BBC Sport: The Russian Football Union’s (RFU) disciplinary body held a board meeting on 25 August, but opted not to fine Lokomotiv and Sorokin, who is also the Russian Football Union’s director general, who insisted that the banana banner was not “racist”.


  1. southernpatriots - Sep 23, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Everyone knows that in the tolerant leftist Canada that there are no bigots and racists? Certainly, there are no racists and bigots in Germany? Russia, racists and bigots, say it is not so!

    Racism and bigotry knows no geographical barriers and was evident here in this country against Irishmen by the British descendants who were here, by the British Canadians against the French immigrants who then came south to Acadiana. Germany has a history replete with racism and bigotry to blame those of Jewish heritage for all their extravagance and the huge debts/reparations they incurred from WWI.

    These governments and the appropriate sport governing authorities should decry and condemn any and all bigoted and racist expressions and suspend those players expressing such horrid behavior. A banana is not the problem, their hearts and minds are the problems.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Sep 23, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      Amen sista! Racism derives from hatred. Hatred from evil. As long as evil exist, so will racism. No matter what ethnicity you represent.