Suspension repealed for hockey player who defended teammate against anti-Asian slur
After fan backlash online, a junior hockey league in Prince Edward Island in Canada has rescinded its punishment against Keegan Mitchell, a player who defended his teammate against an opponent’s anti-Asian remarks .
Hockey PEI on Wednesday rescinded its indefinite suspension after coming under fire for disciplining Mitchell, who plays for the Sherwood Metros, after posting an incident on Facebook in which a Kensington Vipers player used anti-Asian slurs against a Metros player in a game last month.
Mitchell and the Vipers player were suspended for two games, Mitchell for cutting and the opponent for swearing. Mitchell then wrote on Facebook that he was disappointed with the league for what he considered insufficient punishment of the opposing player. He was later suspended indefinitely for what was seen as a violation of the league’s social media policy.
The league’s decision sparked an outcry from social media users who accused it of unreasonably punishing a player for speaking out against hate and protecting racism in the league.
Since then, the organization has not only lifted Mitchell’s suspension, but also extended the offending player’s suspension to five games.
Hockey PEI said it recognizes “the initial error in judgment and expresses its deepest apologies to the victim.”
“As an organization and as individuals, we must take a stand against racism and help make the hockey environment a safe and welcoming place for all,” Hockey PEI said in a statement provided to NBC News. . “We commend Keegan for standing up for what was right and for exposing our missteps around this tragic incident.”
Mitchell, who told the People’s Show he received a lot of support across Canada as well as in the United States for his actions, said he felt it necessary to defend his teammate. He encouraged others to do the same against racism, stressing the importance of understanding how victims feel.
“I heard from my teammate how he feels and listening to him tell me how he feels, I definitely feel for him and it gives me more reason to want to stand up for everyone,” Mitchell said. “There’s no place for that in the game of hockey or in life at all. So, if you have the opportunity to oppose it, do so without hesitation.
In the Facebook post, Mitchell wrote that he was angry at the racial slurs thrown at his teammate during the game. Mitchell said he defended his teammate by “cutting” his opponent, swinging a stick at a rival and incurring a penalty.
“I have no regrets,” Mitchell said on the radio show. “At the time I had to send the message and that’s exactly what I did there.”
Mitchell said he felt it necessary to share the experience after he and the Vipers player received the same punishment from the league.
“My question is, when is Hockey PEI going to start considering ALL racist slurs and comments on the ice for proper sanctioning?” Mitchell wrote. “A 2 game suspension for a racial slur is absolutely shameful. Finally, Hockey PEI, when are you going to wake up and realize that this pitiful suspension is making our entire community look racist?
The league said the incident made it “realize that our inclusivity and anti-harassment guidelines for officials, teams, players and their families don’t go far enough to protect those they should.
“We are committed to changing not only the guidelines of play on the island, but also the culture.”