The father of a Black teen hockey player subjected to racist taunts and “monkey” sounds during a January match-up is blasting league officials for dragging their feet on disciplining the accused players involved.
As reported by The Buffalo News, a local youth hockey league canceled its playoffs over the weekend as it continues to investigate video of the racist abuse by several members of the Cheektowaga Warriors 18-and-under team. The players from the suburban Buffalo team reportedly hurled racial slurs at an African-American teen who played for the Amherst Youth Hockey Association.
“It was one of those situations where you ask yourself, ‘Am I really hearing what I am hearing?” said Andrew McDonald, a parent of another player on the Amherst team who witnessed the incident.
McDonald was standing next to the parent who shot footage from the game and recalled seeing a few of the Cheektowaga players lean over the boards while making loud monkey noises and gestures as the Black player skated past their bench. With two months now passed since the Jan. 20 incident, the dad of the targeted teenager wants answers for why players on the opposing team still haven’t been punished.
“No one wants to be courageous and make the tough decisions and hold people accountable,” Darren Brown-Hall told The Buffalo News.
Brown-Hall, who didn’t attend the game that day, said his son’s coach immediately reported the incident up the chain of command but said he hasn’t heard anything about potential sanctions on discipline since then. The frustrated father said he figured the matter would be handled by now since it was caught on video. However, that wasn’t the case.
“The video is pretty clear-cut,” he said.
Emails provided by Brown-Hall show the Western New York Amateur Hockey League launched an investigation into the incident but pumped the brakes after Amherst Youth Hockey president Patrick Gormley referred the issue to representatives of the New York State Amateur Hockey Association.
The probe was then taken over by David M. Braunstein, a west section president of the state association, according to a Feb. 8 email from the Western New York Amateur Hockey League’s executive director, Janice Cavaretta.
In an email to Brown-Hall last Thursday, Braunstein received a complaint about the incident around Feb. 25 “and immediately started an investigation.”
“The incident is taken seriously by me and my staff,” he added. “I am not finished with my investigation as I need to properly and fairly gather information and I am in the process of doing so.”
Cavaretta also condemned the behavior of the players, saying in an email: “The WNYAHL does not condone any actions that are hateful, hurtful or discriminatory in nature.”
Brown-Hall, who works as chief of staff in Buffalo Public Schools, told The Buffalo News he hopes to see the Cheektowaga players face some sort of discipline and would also like a formal apology to his son. He also called on the state’s hockey leagues to establish standard procedures for conducting this type of investigation and wants to know if officials plan to implement any type of bias training moving forward.