The American Hockey League announced on Tuesday that it has suspended Bakersfield Condors defenseman Brandon Manning five games for using a racial slur toward an opponent during their game against the Ontario Reign on Monday night.
The Condors are the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.
Manning, currently in his second year with the organization, appeared in nine games with the Oilers this season and has played in 10 games for Bakersfield.
Both he and the Oilers organization released statements on Tuesday.
First, here is Keith Gretzky, the current general manager of the Condors and assistant general manager of the Oilers:
“We are aware of an unacceptable comment directed toward an Ontario Reign player by Bakersfield Condors defensemen Brandon Manning during last night’s game. This is a very serious matter, we are disappointed by Brandon’s comment and we fully support the American Hockey League’s decision. The Oilers and Condors organizations wholeheartedly believe in a respectful workplace and will work to better educate our players on appropriate conduct on and off the ice.”
And from Manning:
“Last night I made comments to an opposing player that were stupid and offensive. After the game I spoke with the opposing player in person, which I’m very grateful for. He allowed me to apologize and I took full responsibility for what I said.”
“To say I’ve learned from this situation is an understatement and I promise to be better.”
The incident apparently happened early in the second period of Bakersfield’s 3-0 loss. The Edmonton Journal‘s post-game recap on Monday night noted the physical nature of the game and the altercation that resulted in Manning being ejected.
It was a hard-hitting, at times dirty affair that featured a number of heavy hits and plenty of after-the-whistle altercations. Three of them resulted in the departure of Bakersfield veterans, notably Brandon Manning who received a game misconduct six minutes into the second period after an altercation with abrasive winger Bokondji Imama, who spent much of the night getting under the skin of various Condors. Manning took the bait, and according to the official gamesheet was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct under AHL Rule 75.5(ii), which states:
Any player who uses obscene gestures on the ice or anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game. The Referee shall report the circumstance to the President of the League for further disciplinary action. Any player assessed a game misconduct under this section shall automatically be suspended for the next two (2) regularly scheduled games of his team.
Now the question that has to be asked: Is five games enough of a punishment for this? It’s obviously more than the automatic two-game ban that AHL rules call for, but given the ongoing fight to combat racism in professional hockey it seems like it is barely a slap on the wrist. We are just a couple of months removed from Bill Peters resigning as coach of the Calgary Flames after it was revealed that he used a racial slur against Akim Aliu when Peters coached him in the AHL. Now this happens during a game.
In the past, former Washington Capitals forward Chris Simon was suspended three games at the NHL level for a racial slur directed at Mike Grier during the 1997 season, while Krys Barch received one game for a similar incident during the 2011-12 season.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended one game for directing a homophobic slur toward an opponent during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf was fined $10,000 for a similar incident during the 2017 playoffs.
UPDATE: On Wednesday the Kings released the following statement from Boko Imama.
“I have taken some time to reflect on what transpired on the ice against Bakersfield on Monday night,” Imama said. “What happened is unfortunate for everyone. No matter how intense or heated a game gets, there is no room for this in our game and no excuse. I am very proud to be an African Canadian hockey player and to stand for all other players that are in the same situation as me.”
“I would like to thank the Los Angeles Kings and Ontario Reign, Edmonton Oilers and Bakersfield Condors for their professionalism in helping me handle this situation. Last but not least, I cannot thank my family and friends for their continued love and support.”
“At this time, I will not make any further statements or comments and I would very much appreciate if those wishes were respected.”