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East Coast Hockey League suspends player indefinitely after alleged racist gesture toward Black opponent

By Jacob Lev, CNN

The East Coast Hockey League suspended Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta indefinitely after he allegedly made a racist gesture toward South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jordan Subban during Saturday’s game, the league announced.

A hearing is to take place between the league and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. In a statement Sunday, Icemen CEO Andy Kaufmann said the team will be releasing Panetta effective immediately.

“On behalf of the entire Icemen organization, we apologize to any one who was offended and look forward to beginning the process of healing together as one,” the statement said.

The alleged gesture took place during overtime and resulted in a fight. Afterward, the Icemen posted on Twitter, “Overtime began with a rough fight resulting in multiple penalties on both sides.”

Subban, who is Black, responded to that tweet and said that Panetta had make monkey gestures at him: “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.”

CNN has seen video of the fight but is unable to verify Subban’s allegation.

Panetta posted a video apology for the incident to his Twitter account Sunday evening, but said he did not intend his gesture to have any racial implication.

“I did a tough guy, bodybuilder-like gesture towards him,” Panetta said, adding he’s made the same gesture during previous confrontations on the ice.

“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’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, his family and countless others,” Panetta said in the video.

“I sincerely apologize for the pain and suffering and anger that my actions have caused (Subban), his family and everyone who was hurt by this. However unintentional my actions were, I acknowledge the impact of my gesture and will commit to better understand the impact going forward,” he said.

P.K. Subban, Jordan Subban’s brother and a defenseman for the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, had criticized Panetta on social media after the game.

“They don’t call the east coast league the jungle because my brother and the other black players are the monkeys!” P.K. Subban wrote. “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.”

The ECHL told CNN that the league will not comment further until the hearing is complete.

The Icemen said they are “fully cooperating with the League on their review of the incident and will provide comments and make decisions based on our core values after the League’s review.”

Stingrays President Rob Concannon issued a statement Sunday in support of Subban following the ECHL’s decision to suspend Panetta.

“The South Carolina Stingrays are disgusted by last night’s incident involving Jordan Subban,” the statement reads. “Our organization stands in support of friend and teammate, Jordan, as well as all other players who continue to deal with racism and discrimination. This behavior has to stop and is unacceptable.”

This is the second alleged racist incident that has taken place in the NHL minor league system in the last two weeks. On Friday, the American Hockey League suspended San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik for 30 games for directing a racist gesture towards Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners during a January 12 game.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.

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