The Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League have released two players after racist taunts against the only black player on the team.
The junior hockey team announced that the two players, aged 17 and 18, were suspended after their first two games on the weekend of March 19, as team officials investigate a harassment complaint racial against a teammate.
The Seattle Times reports that a player waved a banana at the victim and called the victim out of racial slurs, dating back to last season.
The team were alerted to the incident by a team employee two nights before the start of their season and sent the two players home while the team investigated the incident.
Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge released a statement about the racist incident:
In the week leading up to the start of the 2020-21 Seattle Thunderbirds season, there was a report of two players communicating inappropriate racial comments and actions towards a third player in the team’s locker room. We thoroughly investigated this incident as soon as we became aware of it by interviewing the team and staff. The Seattle Thunderbirds have a zero tolerance policy for comments and actions that are immune to racism or bullying. …
As of now, both players are no longer on the T-Birds roster. The two players removed from the list will continue their education and personal growth in this field. We will use this incident to further emphasize that comments of this nature will not be tolerated and that more emphasis will be placed on educational programs in this area.
With the trade deadline passed to the 2020-21 WHL season, no player can be moved, and according to 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.