Former ECHL teammates release statement in support of Jacob Panetta

Jacob Panetta's now-former teammates released a joint statement on Friday in support of the suspended ECHL forward amid fallout from an alleged racial gesture made toward Jordan Subban in a game last weekend.

The lengthy "official players statement," which was posted to Twitter by Jacksonville Icemen forward Derek Lodermeier, touched on a variety of topics, including why Icemen players didn't jump in to defend Panetta in the moment, their opinions on his character and his intent with the gesture, as well as how they believe the treatment of their ex-teammate and the backlash he's received has been unjust.

The statement also expressed empathy with Jordan Subban and called for "unity" and "solidarity" among the hockey community. The post had not been shared on the Icemen’s website or official social media accounts at time of this writing.

Jacob Panetta's ex-teammates commented publicly for the first time since the 26-year-old was cut from his team and suspended for the season for a racial gesture. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Jacob Panetta's ex-teammates commented publicly for the first time since the 26-year-old was cut from his team and suspended for the season for a racial gesture. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough) ((AP Photo/Gary McCullough))

Here's the statement in full:

Please let us take the time to shed light on the incident that occurred on Saturday, January 22, 2022, in a game between Jacksonville Icemen and the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL.

During Overtime, an on-ice scrum occurred between our teammate Jacob Panetta and South Carolina’s Jordan Subban. The incident escalated as payers of the Stingrays joined in on the altercation. We knew penalties were going to be given out for their actions and we wanted the Powerplay to try and win the game. In the heat of the moment, we didn’t realize why the altercation had escalated as it did and is also why we refrained from jumping on the ice in defence of Jacob.

The perception in which Jacob’s actions were taken by some were not the way in which they intended to be. We have seen Jacob do this many times before to those not of color and can be seen doing so in our previous games. The way in which he has been harassed, shamed and threatened is truly not okay for him or anyone. These perceived gestures do not reflect or depict our friend and teammate we have grown to admire and respect today. Jacob is a man of character, filled with kindness, sincerity and compassion for others and we truly believe his actions were not racially motivated.

Jacob has been portrayed and put into an unimaginable position by the league, media, our organization, as well as others. As his teammates and for those who know him, know the man he really is. We also know that as a hockey player and more importantly as a person does not deserve this. Please consider seeing both sides of this situation and the evidence that has been supported, while understanding the severity and impact that this has brought to him and others.

With that we would like to express our empathy with Jordan Subban, the Subban family, and those who may have been affected by these actions. We fully understand now, as well as others, how Jacob’s actions could be perceived and how those actions have impacted so many across the World. For this, we are truly saddened and sorry for all the harm that it has caused.

As we move forward, we need to recognize the challenges we face in society as well as in the game of hockey. We are choosing to stand together in UNITY and want to extend our hand to help educate and support in ENDING RACISM. We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and we are committed in helping strive for EQUALITY. We hope the Subban family and others choose to see Jacob’s actions for what they really were and come TOGETHER in SOLIDARITY.

Panetta was cut from Jacksonville and suspended for the remaining 38 games of the ECHL season for the gesture directed toward Stingrays player Jordan Subban, who is Black, on January 22. Panetta can apply for reinstatement after successfully undergoing an education program conducted with the NHL Player Inclusion Committee, the league said in a statement upon its completion of an investigation into the matter.

Amid the much-publicized fallout from the incident, Panetta posted a video last Sunday attempting to apologize to Subban and explain his side of the story, claiming he was doing a “tough-guy, bodybuilder-like gesture” that he’s made to other players in other games throughout his career, and that he had no racist intent with his actions.

Subban, who has yet to respond publicly to Panetta's explanation, posted after last Saturday's game that he tried to fight the Icemen blueliner after Panetta "started making monkey gestures" at him during a scrum.

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