After Buffalo Shooting, Dhane Smith Inspires Hope in the Community


At first, it didn’t even seem real to Dhane Smith. Then he started seeing the faces of the victims, and it began to sink in.

Soon after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, the Bandits star knew he had to do something. His mind was racing the following day, when Buffalo was scheduled to meet the Toronto Rock for the first game of the teams’ East Final.

“That day I walked into the rink with a Black Lives Matter shirt, and I wanted to do something more than that,” Smith said. “I spoke to the team before the game. Usually I’m pretty quiet, pretty loose, but it really hit home for me. I felt like I had to speak up.”

The Tops Friendly Market on Buffalo’s East Side was specifically targeted by the gunman based on its largely Black clientele. As Smith said, had he been in that supermarket, he would have been among those in the crosshairs. Ten Black people were killed in the tragedy.

Smith is no stranger to speaking out about the difficulties of being Black in a predominately white sport. He discussed his experience in length with The Buffalo News in 2020, and a thread from that year detailing the racism he has faced remains pinned atop his Twitter profile. He was active in the Premier Lacrosse League’s response following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Given the racist nature of the attack in what has become his second home, Smith felt compelled to vocally share his story with his teammates.

“I didn’t want them to feel bad for me,” Smith said. “The point of the story was that we needed change. I don’t want it for the next generation. I know eventually I’m going to have kids, and I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”

The Bandits won that night in an unexpected 18-17 shootout. Buffalo coach John Tavares said that in his heart, “it felt like they were winning that game for the community.”

And soon after, Smith figured out how he wanted to impart change.

Smith announced on May 17 that he’d be donating $50 for every goal the Bandits scored in Game 2 of their series with the Rock to support the victims’ families. He’d also auction off his game-used stick and gloves to increase the proceeds.

“Buffalo has given so much to me throughout my career,” Smith said. “I’ve been here for nine years now, and all I’ve had are great things. They’ve supported me throughout my career, so I felt like I had to give back. This is a different opportunity to do so. I wish it never happened like this, but it was one of those things where I felt I had to use my platform to speak up and do the best I could.”

Little did he know, his vow was just the beginning. Others both inside and outside the lacrosse community matched Smith’s pledge, with one donor offering to give $500 for every goal.

The second game of the series wasn’t nearly as high scoring as the first, a 10-9 Bandits triumph that sent the franchise to its second consecutive NLL Cup. That still meant $500 from Smith, and, thanks to all those who supported him, $15,000 in total going to the families of the victims.

Among those who stood by Smith’s side were members of the team which was trying to end his season early. According to Smith, $2,500 came from the rival Toronto Rock.

“As good as the lacrosse was, some things are just so much bigger than the game,” Toronto goalie Nick Rose tweeted. “What @dhanesmith92 & @NLLBandits are doing for their city after the senseless tragedy is as inspiring as it gets. Congrats on a well-earned victory on the floor & we are 100% behind you off of it.”

The donation total is set to go up following the conclusion of Smith’s auction on May 28. As of the morning of May 27, the top bid on his game-used stick was $1,500, and his gloves and cleats were both over $400. Teammates Chase Fraser, Ian MacKay and Chris Cloutier also offered up their own equipment to help the cause.

Smith has been blown away by the response.

“It’s incredible,” Smith said. “It meant a lot to me, and it meant a lot to Buffalo. It’s great to see people just randomly reach out to me and be like, ‘I’m going to match, I’m going to match,’ people that I never really thought would do so. … It was awesome. People are so generous.”

In addition to Smith’s movement, the Bandits donated funds following Game 1 of the series. Smith was among the team’s players, who alongside members of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, offered their support to a grieving community by serving food outside the Tops where the shooting took place.

The Bandits will get at least two more opportunities to play for their city, and perhaps bring Buffalo some joy with a title. The group will face either Colorado or San Diego in the NLL Cup, with the two West foes set to play a winner-take-all Game 3 on Saturday.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Smith said. “We’re that much closer to our goal. It would be awesome to bring a few smiles to Buffalo and bring home a championship.”


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