Minnesota Wild prospect Justin Fontaine has fit in nicely with the team's AHL affiliate Houston Aeros in his rookie season, posting 34 points in 49 games, good for second in team scoring. He's also fit in well off the ice -- three weeks ago, he joined a large contingent of Wild prospects that are currently on Twitter, interacting with fans.
He's taken to Twitter quite well by all accounts, too -- except for an unfortunate incident this last weekend when he used a gay slur.
Sunday night, Fontaine's roommate David MacIntyre tweeted about the Foo Fighters' Grammy performance. Fontaine responded, attempting to sarcastically disparage Dave Grohl's critically acclaimed grunge rock band. But he chose his words poorly.
Fontaine deleted the tweet, but not before a number of Wild fans had seen and reacted to it, and Houston Aeros captain John DiSalvatore had retweeted it for some reason.
Wild management didn't take too kindly to this and it responded immediately, suspending Fontaine for his next two games.
The Wild has suspended Houston Aeros forward Justin Fontaine for the next two games after he used a gay slur during a Twitter exchange about the Grammys with a teammate on Sunday night.
Fontaine soon removed the tweet and apologized, saying, "My apologies to everyone, it was wrong. Twitter rookie and it came out totally wrong. It was a roommate battle, nothing more. #sorry."
Additionally, the Wild issued a statement regarding their disciplinary actions and publicly apologizing for the slur. Guess this is what happens after someone like political commentator Roland Martin of CNN gets suspended for homophobic jokes during the Super Bowl. The lesson: No more gay comedy during massive television events on social media (celebs only).
The team's response in this instance was swift, appropriate, and frankly, a little unexpected. Even Hockey Wildnerness' Bryan Reynolds, who instantly decried the tweet when he saw it, felt its response would likely be more understated:
What the fallout will be will play out throughout the day. More than likely, it will be done behind the scenes. If I had to guess, the level of usage of Twitter by Wild players and prospects is about to undergo a serious cutback. It's disappointing, because the level of interaction with these players was priceless.
The problem is, when you are a pro athlete, you are no longer representing only yourself. As frustrating as that may be, it is the truth. This type of language gives the entire Wild organization a black eye, especially if there is no recourse. If Fontaine had called an opponent that word, he would be suspended.
Reynolds is correct: This did reflect poorly on the Wild organization, and it would have continued to reflect poorly on the Wild if they had simply dealt with this privately or recommended the Wild prospects cut back on their Twitter usage. While those responses aren't endorsements of Fontaine's choice of word, neither are they rebukes, and that's what this calls for.
As Reynolds said, this would have necessitated a suspension had it been said on the ice. Truth is, Fontaine represents the Wild organization on and off the ice, and the word remains damaging regardless of where it's said, so kudos to the Wild for making it clear that the use of gay slurs anywhere will necessitate the same response.
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