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Hockey

Ontario Reign’s Boko Imama issues statement on racial-slur incident

Kings forward Boko Imama, left, and fights Ducks left winger Mike Liambas fight during a preseason game in September 2017.
Kings forward Boko Imama, left, and fights Ducks left winger Mike Liambas fight during a preseason game in September 2017.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Two days after having a racial slur directed his way in an American League Hockey game, Kings minor league player Boko Imama issued a statement Wednesday regarding the situation.

“I have taken some time to reflect on what transpired on the ice against Bakersfield on Monday night,” Imama said in a team-issued news release. “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.”

The slur occurred during a Monday night between the Ontario Reign, the Kings’ AHL affiliate, and the Bakersfield Condors, the minor league farm team of the Edmonton Oilers. Early in the second period, Condors defenseman Brandon Manning made the remark. He was assessed a game misconduct, ejected from the contest, then suspended by the AHL on Tuesday for five games.

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“Last night, I made comments to an opposing player that were stupid and offensive,” Manning said in a statement released by the Condors on Tuesday, following the announcement of his suspension.

“After the game, I spoke with [Imama] 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.”

Imama, 23, is a Montreal-native whose parents immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Kings’ website. After being drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round in 2015, the Kings acquired the 6-foot-1, 220-pound forward’s signing rights in May 2017 and signed him to a three-year entry-level contract.

In three seasons with the Reign, Imama has 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 107 games.

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Manning, a 29-year-old defenseman who has played 255 NHL games, including nine with the Oilers this season, was suspended under AHL Rule 23.9, which covers the disciplining of players for use of a racial slur.

“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,” said Imama, who added that he will not be making any further comment regarding the issue. “Last but not least, I cannot thank my family and friends [enough] for their continued love and support.”

Manning’s suspension comes just months after Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters resigned in November, following the revelation from one of his former players, Akim Aliu, a Nigerian-born player, that Peters had addressed him with a racial slur during the 2009-10 season, when Aliu was playing for the Peters-coached Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL.

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Aliu’s revelation sparked a wave of other verbal- and physical-abuse allegations (some race-related and others not) from other former players against hockey coaches from the junior level to the NHL.

During December’s NHL Board of Governors meeting, Commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled new league policies and training programs intended to combat inappropriate conduct from players and coaches, including mandatory counseling regarding racism and bullying for NHL personnel and an anonymous hotline for people to report such incidents.

“Inclusion and diversity are not simply buzz words,” Bettman said. “They are foundational principles of the NHL. Our message is unequivocal: We will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind.”


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