A Chilliwack teenager is one of two players who’ve been kicked off the roster of the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds after allegedly using racist taunts against a teammate.
An eighteen-year-old Chilliwackian was released Thursday, along with a 17-year-old from Calgary.
They are not being named because of their ages, but according to a report from the Seattle Times, they were accused of waving a banana in front of the victim and calling him a racial slur. The Thunderbirds launched an internal investigation when the incident was reported to upper management on March 17 and the two players were classified as ‘healthy scratches’ when the team began its regular season March 19.
They were officially removed from the team’s roster March 25.
At that time, the Thunderbirds issued a statement from general manager Bill La Forge.
The Seattle Thunderbirds have a zero-tolerance policy for comments and actions that are racially insensitive or bullying,” he said. “Effective immediately, two players are no longer on the T-Birds roster. The two players removed from the roster will continue their education and personal growth in this area. We will use this incident to further emphasize that comments of this nature will not be tolerated and further emphasis will be placed on educational programming in this area.”
According to the Seattle Times report, it was the 17-year-old who allegedly did the banana waving, and it is alleged that his use of racial slurs dates back to last season. La Forge denied having any knowledge of prior incidents.
The Chilliwack player was heading into his second season with the WHL club and his future in the league is now uncertain. The forward had one goal and eight points in 54 games as a rookie in 2019-20 and was a member of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds major midget program and the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford before jumping to the WHL.
He won’t be able to catch on with another team this season because Seattle retains his rights and the WHL trade deadline has passed. His lone option if he wants to continue at the major junior level is to wait for a potential offseason trade.
According to the La Forge statement, all WHL players participate in educational programs aimed at making sure they “understand the importance of respect and know how to prevent hazing, abuse, harassment, and bullying. All members of the Seattle Thunderbirds completed Respect in Hockey educational programming and Respect in Sport certification, which includes specific programming on racism and diversity, prior to the start of the 2020-21 WHL regular season.”