Former Colgate Ice Hockey Player Suspended for Racist Gesture


The Associated Press

Colgate’s Jacob Panetta (15) during an NCAA hockey game against Providence on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Jacob Panetta, former Colgate men’s ice hockey player and Jacksonville Icemen forward, received a season-ending suspension from the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) following an alleged racial gesture towards South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jordan Subban. 

Panetta was released from the Jacksonville Icemen immediately after. He announced that he will complete an inclusion program offered by the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Player Inclusion Committee during his time away, in hopes of becoming a better ally.

The incident happened early in overtime when a brawl broke out between the Icemen and the Stingrays. Subban attempted to engage Panetta in a fight, and Panetta responded by taunting Jordan Subban — who is Black. A video of the incident, which went viral on Twitter, showed Panetta raising his arms toward his sides in a gesture said to mimic a monkey. 

Jordan Subban tweeted after the game, “@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.”

The video caught mainstream traction when New Jersey Devils star defenseman P.K. Subban — Jordan Subban’s brother — retweeted the video. On Twitter, P.K. Subban captioned the video “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.”

P.K. Subban also addressed the incident at a press conference, noting: “It’s distasteful. There is no room for it in our game. I’m embarrassed because our game is better than this.”

Panetta responded after the game by posting an apology video on social media. In the video, he suggested that the gesture had no racial implication. He described the taunt as a “tough guy stance,” noting that he had made the same gesture to other opponents before.

“I want to reiterate that no racial slurs, noises or anything of the like were said by me during the incident. I see now from Jordan [Subban]’s reaction that he and others certainly viewed it as a racial gesture and that my actions have caused a great deal of anger and upset to Jordan [Subban], his family and countless others,” stated Panetta. 

In a separate Instagram post, Panetta reiterated his view that the “tough guy gesture towards Jordan Subban was not racist in intent.” He continued, “I feel sick that I made Jordan [Subban] feel attacked because of his race … I believe that racism has no place in society and it has no place in hockey.” 

However, ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin maintained that the gesture warranted the season-long ban, regardless of whether or not Panetta’s intentions were malicious. Defending his ruling, Crelin contended, ​​“Insensitive actions and gestures, regardless of intent, cannot be tolerated in our game. We all need to learn and grow from this incident.”

In addition, Panetta’s racist gesture was not an isolated incident in American hockey of late. Just a day prior, San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik received a 30-game suspension for displaying a similar monkey-like gesture directed towards Tucson Roadrunners’ player Boko Imama in an American Hockey League game. Hrabik will also have to participate in the NHL’s inclusion program. Despite the swift actions of the players’ respective leagues, the two instances continue a trend of racism in American professional hockey.