Jacob Panetta was officially suspended by the ECHL for the remainder of the ECHL season. In their statement they said the intent behind the gesture wasn't as important as the perception of the gesture. Jacob vehemently denies there was any racial motivation behind the act and now both the Jacksonville Icemen's President/Owner and his teammates are coming to his defense.
Bob Ohrablo, Jacksonville Icemen President, shared these thoughts with N4J
:At the game, the announcer said over the PA system Panetta had been cited for making a "racial gesture."
News4JAX pulled up the penalties from the game online and it shows several penalties against Panetta but none for making a "racial gesture."
News4JAX asked Ohrablo why that is.
"because is there is no penalty," he said. "There is no game misconduct for anything, for racial gestures or anything. It's the act that causes the game misconduct and then the player's not really guilty of that until the league rules. So that was a mistake by the referee and a mistake by our PA announcer."
"I really want the league to iron this out. It's such a sensitive subject, and I want to make sure that the league comes down with a decision," Ohrablo said.
Not to be lost in all of this is how Jacksonville released Panetta from his contract before a decision was rendered by the league.
Now today Jacob's former teammates released a statement in support of the forward.Please let us take the time to shed light on the incident that occurred on Saturday, January 22, 2022, in a game between Jacksonville lcemen and the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL.
During Overtime, an on-ice scrum occurred between our teammate Jacob Panetta and South Carolina's Jordan Subban. The incident escalated as players of the Stingrays joined in on the altercation. We knew penalties were going to be given out for their actions and we wanted the altercation had escalated as it did and is also why we refrained from jumping on the ice in defense of Jacob.
The perception in which Jacob's actions were taken by some were not the way in which they were intended to be. We have seen Jacob do this many times before to those not of color and can be seen doing so in our previous games. The way in which he has been harassed, shamed and threatened is truly not okay for him or anyone. These perceived gestures do not reflect or depict our friend and teammate we have grown to admire and respect today. Jacob is a man of character, filled with kindness, sincerity and compassion for others and we fully believe his actions were not racially motivated.
Jacob has been portrayed and put into an unimaginable position by the league, media, our organization, as well as others. As his teammates and for those who know him, know the man he really is. We also know that as a hockey player and more importantly as a person does not deserve this. Please consider seeing both sides of this situation and the evidence that has been supported, while understanding the severity and impact that this has brought to him and others.
With that we would like to express our empathy with Jordan Subban, the Subban family, and those who may have been affected by these actions. We fully understand now, as well as others, how Jacob's actions could be perceived and how those actions have impacted so many across the World. For this, we are truly saddened and sorry for all the harm that it has caused.
As we move forward, we need to recognize the challenges we face in society as well as in the game of hockey. We are choosing to stand together in UNITY and want to extend our hand to help educate and support in ENDING RACISM. We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and we are committed in helping to strive for EQUALITY. We hope the Subban family and others choose to see Jacob's actions as for what they really were and come TOGETHER in SOLIDARITY.