The East Coast Hockey League suspended player Jacob Panetta indefinitely after being accused of making a racist gesture toward a Black player over the weekend.
ESPN reports that the Jacksonville Iceman defenseman is accused of making a racist taunt at South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jordan Subban. The accusations stemmed from a Saturday game when South Carolina’s Andrew Cherniwchan and Jacksonville goalie Justin Kapelmaster sparked a tussle between the teams.
Subban took to Twitter, recalling the melee, saying that when he tried to engage Panetta in a fight, Panetta allegedly responded by making racist gestures in an animal form.
“As soon as I began to turn my back, he started making monkey gestures at me, so I punched him in the face multiple times and he turtled like the coward he is,” Subban tweeted.
More like @JPanetta12 was too much of a coward to fight me and as soon as I began to turn my back he started making monkey gestures at me so I punched him in the face multiple times and he turtled like the coward he is. There fixed it 👍🏾 https://t.co/JtPqpN9wwE
— Jordan Subban (@jordansubban) January 23, 2022
On Sunday, Panetta posted a video on Twitter claiming he wasn’t making a racist gesture. Panetta stated that “racism has no place in this world and no place in the game we love.” He said he was telling Subban that “You’re only tough when the refs get involved,” and then “did a tough-guy bodybuilder-like gesture toward him” that he has made to other players in other games.
“My actions toward Jordan were not because of race, and were not intended as a racial gesture. I did not contemplate at the time that it would be received as a racial gesture, and I attempted to convey this to Jordan when we were sent to the dressing room during the game,” Panetta said.
“I see now from Jordan’s reaction that he and others certainly viewed it as a racial gesture, and that my actions have caused a great deal of anger … I want to express to everyone, especially Jordan, that my actions were not racially motivated at all, and I sincerely apologize for the pain and suffering and anger that my actions have caused him, his family and everyone who has been hurt by this,” Panetta added.
But the damage is done. The ECHL suspended Panetta indefinitely, and the Iceman released him from the team amid an ongoing investigation.
“Though the investigation and review is ongoing at the league level, the Jacksonville Icemen will be releasing the player involved effective immediately and will continue our mission of sharing our love of community and hockey,” the statement read.
“On behalf of the entire Icemen organization, we apologize to anyone who was offended and look forward to beginning the process of healing together as one. Thank you.”