Ukrainian Hockey League Player Jalen Smereck Victim of Racist Act

Many people agree, there is no place for racism in society or in sport. With the Black Lives Matter movement having big representation in the major sport leagues and the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, it looked like, for a while, racism in sport was finally being addressed and properly disciplined. 

Tweet from the chair of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Akim Aliu making his displeasure with the decision of the Ukraine Hockey Federation to only suspend Andrei Deniskin for 3 games and the option of an $1870 fine or an additional 10 game suspension.

That was, until September 26th, when a case of racism took place in the Ukrainian Hockey League. After a stoppage in play, Andrei Deniskin was seen making a racial gesture towards Jalen Smereck, sparking outrage from the hockey world and demanding Deniskin be banned from the league. A few days later, the Ukrainian Hockey Federation handed out its suspension of 13 games and a fine just short of $2000. In an interview with TSN’s Salim Valji Smereck mentioned this punishment was nowhere near what Smereck expected and left him “heartbroken”. The punishment was also referred to as embarrassing by many in the hockey world, including chair of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Akim Aliu.  

Jalen Smereck is a 24-year-old, American born hockey player. He played his junior career in the Ontario Hockey League before splitting time between the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey Leagues Tucson Roadrunners through the 2020-2021 season. Smereck began in the Ukrainian Hockey league just this season.  

Racism and social injustice in sport is a topic commonly analyzed by sociology researchers. However, incidents such as this one always seem to happen quite often. It brings into question what it will take to completely rid sport of these racist acts and social injustices. These acts and injustices are systematic and are not handled properly by organizations. This can be seen in both the insufficient discipline to the offending player and the fact that the GM of the Ukrainian Hockey Federation was fired shortly after this incident for supporting Jalen Smereck. 

Smereck has decided to take a leave of absence from the league until he feels the situation has been handled properly. 


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