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Defenceman Jacob Panetta has been suspended indefinitely by the ECHL and cut from the Jacksonville Icemen after he subjected Jordan Subban to a racist taunt during a game.
The announcement of the suspension, which is pending a hearing, comes after Jordan Subban, the brother of New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban and a former NHL draft pick, called out the incident on social media, spurring support from his brother and several other prominent hockey figures.
During the game between the Icemen and Subban's South Carolina Stingrays, Panetta skated by the Black defenceman during overtime and made a racist gesture after the two were involved in a post-whistle scrap.
The first exposure to this incident was when Jordan quote-tweeted the Jacksonville team account that described the conflict as a “rough fight resulting in penalties to both sides,” and spoke to what caused the fight.
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
“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,” Subban wrote. “There fixed it.”
There was limited footage of the altercation, but shortly after the game, Jordan’s brother P.K. tweeted out a video of the incident that shows Panetta making a racist gesture towards the defenceman 18 seconds into the clip, and then Subban reacting to it.
They don’t call the east coast league the jungle because my brother and the other black players are the monkeys! Hey @jacobpanetta you shouldn’t be so quick delete your Twitter or your Instagram account you will probably be able to play again… that’s what history says but things pic.twitter.com/8zOJ9q47pk
— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) January 23, 2022
“They don’t call the east coast league the jungle because my brother and the other black players are the monkeys!” P.K. wrote on Instagram. “Hey @jacobpanetta you shouldn’t be so quick delete your Twitter or your Instagram account. You will probably be able to play again… that’s what history says, but things are changing.
“Now not just the hockey world knows your true colours… your hometown of Belleville knows, your family, and friends know you’re a fraud. With everything that has gone on in the past couple years in the world I’ll say with all due respect to everyone who has an opinion, this isn’t a mistake. We all know what’s ok and what’s not. Even your own teammates wanted to see you get your clock cleaned. This happens a lot and it never gets exposed in the lower leagues. One thing that I love about this is Jordan’s teammates standing in there and showing support. Love that.”
This sparked more outrage and disgust from the hockey community, as they shared their thoughts after watching the video.
Second racist incident in the same week Willie O’Ree was honored. SMH. How do we still have so far to go? Time for coaches/leagues to have a talk with their teams immediately. Back to basics clearly. Tell your players any bullshit like this and you’re done. Zero tolerance. https://t.co/gF6NRcYwZs
— JT Brown (@JTBrown23) January 23, 2022
Twice in one week. This time while a racist slur is shouted from the stands. And they say it’s not a hockey problem. We have to change the culture from the ground up and the top down.
The ECHL can set an example with their response to this. So far there has been only silence. https://t.co/CPYfAWZ5bh
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) January 23, 2022
After reviewing the incident, the ECHL announced Panetta's indefinite suspension on Sunday.
"The ECHL on Sunday announced that Jacksonville’s Jacob Panetta has been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as a result of his actions in ECHL Game #474, South Carolina at Jacksonville, on Jan. 22," the league's statement reads. "Panetta is suspended under Rule #28 – Supplementary Discipline as a result of his actions at 0:23 of overtime."
Following the ECHL's announcement, the Icemen released the 26-year-old Panetta.
"To be clear, our core values as an ownership group include one love and zero tolerance for racism or any other forms of hate against any group whatsoever," the Icemen stated. "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."
After news of his suspension and release from the Icemen, Panetta released his own statement via a Twitter video, in which he said he didn't mean the gesture as a racist offence, but rather as mocking Subban for his "tough-guy" act. Panetta also said he "tried to convey" his alleged intention to Jordan Subban when both players were sent to the dressing room.
— Jacob Panetta (@JPanetta12) January 23, 2022
"When the linesman was between us, I said to him 'you're only tough once the refs get involved' and I did a tough-guy, bodybuilder-like gesture towards him," Panetta said in the video. "My actions towards Jordan were not because of race, were not intended as a racial gesture. I did not contemplate at the time that it would be perceived by some as a racial gesture."
This comes in the same week that the American Hockey League suspended Krystof Hrabik for 30 games after making a similar racist gesture towards Boko Imama, who recently tweeted out his frustration after the incident.
These two displays of racism on the ice come just days after the Boston Bruins retired the number of Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player, who made his debut in 1957. To have players so outwardly express this amount of hatred and racism shows that the sport still has miles to go, unfortunately.
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