Former Jacksonville Icemen player Jacob Panetta responds to ECHL suspension for alleged racial gesture

Panetta will attend inclusion program

Jacksonville Icemen player Jacob Panetta has been suspended following claims that he used a racial gesture directed at a Black player during a game in Jacksonville. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacob Panetta used social media Friday to respond to his ECHL punishment after he was accused of using a racially motivated gesture toward a Black player on the opposing team during a game last Saturday.

Panetta said he will use his time away from the game to become a better ally, and he said he will complete the National Hockey League’s Player Inclusion Committee’s program.

In the post on Instagram, Panetta again said he was not making “monkey gestures” in Jordan Subban’s direction and it was not racist in intent, but instead was a “tough guy” stance.

Panetta, 26, was released by his Jacksonville team Sunday, a day after his actions toward Subban.

Panetta said he was doing a “tough guy bodybuilder” gesture toward Subban. Panetta added that he has made the same gesture toward other players in on-ice confrontations.

“My actions towards Jordan were not because of race and were not intended to be a racial gesture. I did not contemplate at the time that it would be perceived by some as a racial gesture,” he said.

The Icemen players released their own statement on Friday, saying they’ve seen Panetta do the same gesture “many times before to those not of color.” The players also stated that they believe his actions were not racially motivated.

RELATED: Icemen president: Announcer, referee made mistake by announcing penalty for racial gesture

Panetta will be able to apply for a reduction of the suspension and reinstatement after March 17, pending the completion of a learning experience conducted in conjunction with the NHL’s player inclusion committee, a program Panetta now says he will complete.

The Icemen released an official statement about the incident on Twitter Thursday.

“Insensitive actions and gestures, regardless of intent, cannot be tolerated in our game,” ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said Thursday in a release. “We all need to learn and grow from this incident, and remain steadfast to further educating and advancing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our league.”

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

Panetta was released by Jacksonville the next day.

Video posted by P.K. Subban on Twitter showed Panetta taking a monkey-like pose while Jordan Subban was being led away by an official. Subban then skated back toward Panetta and the two locked up at the beginning of a multiplayer skirmish.

RELATED: Icemen fan records alleged racist incident on video

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 “You’re only tough when the refs get involved” and then “did a tough-guy bodybuilder-like gesture toward him” that Panetta said he has 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.

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

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