Czech hockey fans taunt Romani player with racist abuse, owner of the team they support asks league to hand down punishment
The semifinal series of the Czech ice hockey play-off between Bílí Tygři Liberec and Kometa Brno is bringing audiences exciting games, but the series is being spoiled by the disgusting racist insults shouted by fans of Kometa at the Liberec forward Dominik Lakatoš. Over the course of two games they have been shouting "Lakatoš is a f**cking gypsy!" at the player.
The club from Liberec has clearly objected to this behavior and is standing behind their team member. "A play-off is a competition of emotions, there's no doubt about it. It's been like that since time immemorial and that's correct. The Bílí Tygři, of course, cannot overlook the incidents that have happened during the ongoing semifinal series with Kometa Brno. Fans of our competitor attacked Dominik Lakatoš during two shootouts with racist insults and shouted abusive curses at the other players as well. This crosses all the lines of fair play to which this series on the ice otherwise adheres. The Bílí Tygři are, therefore, urging all fans to keep their expressions of support within the lines of decency," the club posted to its website.
Libor Zábranský, the owner and trainer of the Brno hockey team, said he is sharply opposed to fans behaving in such a way and is willing to accept any kind of fine levied against the side. "We absolutely distance ourselves from that, completely and firmly. Nobody from Kometa and none of our players approve of that behavior. We anticipate that this incident will be addressed by the leaders of the competition, led by Pepa Řezníček, such matters must be addressed point-blank, there is no place for them in the stadiums or anywhere else. We will accept any punishment and we will not appeal it," Zábranský told news server iSport.cz.
Some fans are of a different opinion. They are discussing on social media the idea that Lakatoš, who is Romani, can be called a "gypsy" because they do not believe it is a racist insult.
"... they shouted 'gypsy' at Tomáš Sršeň back in the day and nobody minded ... and he wasn't a 'gypsy'.... Lakatoš is one ... so why take offense, what kind of racism is this??" social media user Gabriela Hodová posted.
Jaroslav Šindelář has responded in a column in the daily Lidové noviny to such opinions. "Yes, Lakatoš is actually half-Romani. So what? If the fans are calling him, vulgarly, 'a gypsy', then that is obvious racism. If they were to just yell 'f**cking Lakatoš', that would not change the vulgarity of the situation, but it would not be racism," he wrote.
"Kometa fans should realize that if anybody were to shout 'f**cking whitey', for example, at the biggest star of their own club, Martin Erat, that would also be racism," Šindelář wrote. The close series stands at 2:2 and will continue tomorrow with a fifth game in Liberec.
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