Four NHL hockey fans kicked out over racist comments toward player

Four spectators were removed from their seats at a National Hockey League game in Chicago on Saturday night after allegedly making racist comments toward a black player on the visiting team.

During the third period of the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, Washington player Devante Smith-Pelly was in the penalty box, "when four people in the audience made their alleged remarks," the Chicago Tribune reported.

A Capitals team official told the Washington Post that the spectators chanted “basketball, basketball, basketball,” at Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly reportedly responded to the fans, although what he said was uncertain. Security officers at the United Center were alerted and the four spectators were removed from the building.

“I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “The athletes in our country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks issued a statement after the game, saying the organization was aware of the “harmful” comments directed at Smith-Pelly and issued the player an apology.

“We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated,” the statement read, in part.

The NHL has roughly 30 black players, the Tribune reported.

The league sponsors a program called "Hockey is For Everyone," that it says, "uses the game of hockey - and the League's global influence - to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement Sunday addressing the incident. 

"Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly," Bettman said. "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 League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment - free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience," the statement read.