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Minor hockey player suspended after calling out racism on the ice


A 16-year-old claims another hockey player called him a racist slur during a March 7 match. When he reported it to the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), both players were suspended for seven games. The question is – why?

Zach Mark, the head coach for the New Hamburg Junior Firebirds U-18, said he witnessed the on-ice altercation between JJ Jacobs and a player from the opposing team.

“JJ told us that the player said: ‘Good job, little Black boy,’ and then the N-word,” Mark told CTV News.

JJ allegedly called the other player racist and also used a profanity.

“It was pretty heartbreaking,” his mother Patti Jacobs said. “I can tell you that this isn’t the first time that this has happened to him, unfortunately. After this incident occurred, I found out it happened multiple other times during the season as well. I was really happy that he actually spoke up and said something this time.”

JJ Jacobs in an undated photo. (Submitted)

Following the guidelines set out by the OMHA, the incident was reported to the referee who issued a warning to players on both benches. One of the opposing coaches also apologized to Jacobs on behalf of their coaching staff after the game.

The Jacobs’ later filed a complaint with the OMHA and received a response just a few days before the team’s first playoff game.

“I got a call from Patti saying: ‘Hey, they just suspended JJ for seven games.’ I was like: ‘For what?’” Mark recalled. “So, you’re holding racism to the same standard as calling a guy a racist? We were all just shocked that JJ got anything out of this.”

The family appealed the decision.

The OMHA sent a statement to CTV News which read, in part: “The player who made a discriminatory slur has been handed a seven-game suspension. The other player who responded received a three-game suspension that was reduced from an original ruling of seven games.”

The decision still doesn’t sit well with JJ’s mother.

“Every situation is unique and different and I think they looked at this from a very blanketed perspective and didn’t really pay attention to the details of it,” said Patti. “We understand that kids chirp each other on the ice. But when it goes to this next level, that’s when mindsets need to shift a little bit and say: ‘OK, this is a little bit more than calling someone a jerk.’ I think, from that perspective, it just wasn’t assessed appropriately, or fairly, in any way.”

JJ Jacobs in an undated photo. (Submitted)

Even though JJ’s suspension was reduced from seven to three games, the timing of the decision meant he missed the championships and it essentially ended his minor hockey career. Even more disappointing to JJ was the fact that he had a heart condition which kept out of competitive sports for three years, and this was his first season back on the ice.

While Jacobs won’t be back with the team next season, there are still concerns about what’s being done to address hate in hockey.

“These kids that are still coming up through OMHA and playing through their organization, they need to know that they’re protected and that they can speak up because this is telling them otherwise,” Patti explained.

JJ’s coach agrees.

“Inclusivity needs to be a topic of conversation in hockey,” Mark said. “It’s probably one of the most white-dominated sports, when you look at the professional level.”

JJ Jacobs did not want to share his story on camera with CTV News but said minor hockey’s top priority should be making sure all players feel protected and comfortable speaking up if they experience discrimination. Top Stories

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