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ECHL suspends Jacksonville’s Jacob Panetta indefinitely for racist gesture

echl panetta

Jacob Panetta of the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen has been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing and released by the team after a racist gesture made towards South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jordan Subban, who is Black.

Twenty-three seconds into overtime during Jacksonville’s 1-0 win, Panetta and Subban were involved in a post-whistle scrum along the boards. The two continued chirping after being separated and as they skated away Panetta made the gesture towards Subban, which caused the Stingray defenseman to go after Panetta near center ice.

Panetta was assessed two game misconducts -- one for “fighting (continuing an altercation)” and one for “inciting” -- and a fighting major and an unsportsmanlike minor. Subban was given a game misconduct for “fighting (continuing an altercation)” and an unsportsmanlike minor.

Panetta’s Twitter account has since been deleted.

Subban’s brother, New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, posted video of the incident to Instagram saying, “I’ll say with all due respect to everyone who has an opinion, this isn’t a mistake. We all know what’s ok and what’s not. Even your own teammates wanted to see you get your clock cleaned.”

In a statement, Jacksonville CEO Andy Kaufmann noted that the team has since released Panetta.

“To be clear, our core values as an ownership group include one love and zero tolerance for racism or any other forms of hate against any group whatsoever. The platform that is the Jacksonville Icemen is one that is more than just about hockey to us as a group. It is about using this platform to spread not only our love for hockey but our love for the community and for each other.”

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

Stingrays team president Rob Concannon said, “The South Carolina Stingrays are disgusted and appalled by last night’s incident involving Jordan Subban. 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. This behavior is unacceptable and has to stop.”

Too many of these incidents this season

This is the second suspension this week due to a racial gesture made by a player in the minor leagues. On Friday, the American Hockey League suspended Krystof Hrabik of the San Jose Barracuda 30 games for making a monkey gesture towards Tucson Roadrunners forward Boko Imama, who is Black.

In a Ukrainian Hockey League in September, Jalen Smereck was subjected to an opponent’s racist taunt. Andrei Deniskin pantomimed peeling and eating a banana towards Smereck and was later suspended 13 games.

Smereck responded to the incident in the ECHL on Instagram saying, “It’s the first month of 2022 and there has already been two racial gestures in the second and third highest leagues in North America. Just think about how many are happening at the youth level to young kids that we don’t see or ever know about, because the game isn’t being recorded.”

UPDATE: Panetta has reactivated his Twitter account and posted two apology messages to Subban. He says it was a “bodybuilder gesture” he was making towards Subban following their scrum.

“I see now that 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.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.