ECHL suspends Panetta after he is accused of racial gesture

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The ECHL suspended Jacob Panetta on Sunday after the brother of longtime NHL defenseman P.K. Subban accused the Jacksonville defenseman of making “monkey gestures" in his direction.

The league said the indefinite suspension is pending a hearing under its collective bargaining agreement with its players. Jacksonville then announced it had to decided to cut Panetta.

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

Video posted by P.K. Subban on Twitter shows Panetta taking a monkey-like pose while Jordan Subban is being led away by an official. Jordan Subban, who is Black, then skates 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 that “You’re only tough when the refs get involved,’” and then “did a tough-guy bodybuilder-like gesture toward him” that Panetta said he’s 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.

P.K. Subban addressed the situation again Sunday night after the Kings-Devils game, saying that his family doesn’t need “pity from anyone,” and that “we have to bring people together, and hopefully this is another step in doing that.”

“No one felt sorry for us when we went through our experience, so we don’t expect anybody to feel sorry and we don’t expect anybody to really understand that isn’t Black,” he said, adding later, “This is life for us. And that’s what sad — this is life for people that look like me who have gone through in the game of hockey. And that’s part of the history, whether we like it or not, and we’re trying to change that.”

Stingrays President Rob Concannon said the team was “disgusted and appalled” by what happened.

“Our organization stands in support of our friend and teammate, Jordan, as well as all other players who continue to deal with racism and discrimination,” Concannon said in a statement posted on the team's Twitter account. “This behavior has to stop and is unacceptable.”

The Icemen first said the organization would “ make comments and decisions ” after the ECHL reviewed the incident. Team CEO Andy Kaufmann announced Panetta's release later in the day.

“Though the investigation and review is ongoing at the league level, the Jacksonville Icemen will be releasing the player involved effectively immediately and will continue our mission of sharing our love of community and hockey,” Kaufmann said.

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

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Allan Kreda in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.

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