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League punishes minor league hockey player accused of racist gestures

Jacob Panetta suspended for the rest of the ECHL season
After an on-ice fight, South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jordan Subban (5), left, is held by linesman Shane Gustafson while Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta (15) is face-down on the ice engaged with another player during overtime of an ECHL hockey game in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. The ECHL has suspended Panetta after the brother of longtime NHL defenseman P.K. Subban accused the Jacksonville defenseman of making “monkey gestures†in his direction. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

The ECHL has suspended Jacob Panetta for the rest of this season after the brother of longtime NHL player P.K. Subban accused the minor league defenseman of making “monkey gestures” in his direction.

Panetta was released by his Jacksonville team Sunday, a day after his actions toward Subban, who is Black. Panetta said his gestures were “not racially motivated.”

Panetta, 26, will be able to apply for a reduction of the suspension and reinstatement after March 17, pending completion of a learning experience conducted in conjunction with the NHL’s player inclusion committee.

“Insensitive actions and gestures, regardless of intent, cannot be tolerated in our game,” ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said Thursday in a release. “We all need to learn and grow from this incident, and remain steadfast to further educating and advancing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our league.”

The incident with Panetta and Jordan Subban occurred 23 seconds into overtime during Jacksonville’s 1-0 home victory over South Carolina on Saturday. It came in the wake of minor league forward Krystof Hrabik’s 30-game suspension for making a racial gesture during a Jan. 12 AHL game.

Panetta was released by Jacksonville the next day.

Video posted by P.K. Subban on Twitter showed Panetta taking a monkey-like pose while Jordan Subban was being led away by an official. Subban then skated back toward Panetta and the two lock up at the beginning of a multiplayer skirmish.

In a post on his Twitter account, Jordan Subban said Panetta “was too much of a coward” to fight him.

“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 posted.

Panetta posted a video on Twitter on Sunday, with a tweet that said “racism has no place in this world and no place in the game we love.” Panetta said he told Subban “You’re only tough when the refs get involved” and then “did a tough-guy bodybuilder-like gesture toward him” that Panetta said 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,” he 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.

Jacksonville is affiliated with the New York Rangers, and South Carolina is a Washington Capitals affiliate.

—The Associated Press

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