The Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League released two players after racist taunts toward the team’s lone Black player.
The junior hockey team announced that the two players, ages 17 and 18, had been suspended after their first two games the weekend of March 19, as team officials investigated a complaint of racial harassment against a teammate.
The Seattle Times reports that one player had waved a banana at the victim and had called the victim racial slurs, dating to last season.
The team was alerted of the incident by a team employee two nights before the start of its season and sent both players home while the team investigated the incident.
Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge released a statement on the racist incident:
In the week leading up to the start of the Seattle Thunderbirds 2020-21 season, a report of two players communicating inappropriate racial comments and actions towards a third player in the team locker room was brought forward. We thoroughly investigated this incident upon learning of it by conducting interviews of the team and staff. The Seattle Thunderbirds have a zero-tolerance policy for comments and actions that are racially insensitive or bullying. …
Effective immediately the 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.
With the trade deadline passing on the 2020-21 WHL season, neither player will be able to be moved, and per the Times, neither player is expected to return next season.
The WHL is one of three leagues to make up the Canadian Hockey League, the highest level of junior hockey in Canada.