Fifteen players and three coaches of a Los Angeles-based youth hockey team were suspended and their actions are being investigated by the California Amateur Hockey Assn. after a video was posted to a social media site in which one player performed a Nazi salute and others reportedly were heard to make what sounded like anti-Semitic comments.
The L.A. Jr. Kings 14U AAA bantam team are a recreational club team that operates out of the Kings’ training facility, the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. The Kings and the NHL have granted the Jr. Kings permission to use the Kings’ marks, including the logo and colors. The Jr. Kings are not affiliated with the Kings, but Kings officials have been executive directors of the Jr. Kings program and former Kings players have worked with youngsters as coaches.
The video was posted on March 9, the night before the Jr. Kings were scheduled to face the Jr. Ducks in the championship game of the Pacific district hockey tournament in Las Vegas. It’s not clear whether the alleged anti-Semitic comments and actions were directed toward Jewish players on the Jr. Ducks, but Pacific District officials made the Jr. Kings coaches aware of the video before the game and allowed the players to compete. The Jr. Kings lost to the Jr. Ducks, who advanced to this week’s USA Hockey national championships in Pittsburgh. The Jr. Kings players, their parents, and their coaches were interviewed before the suspension was imposed.
The existence of the video was first reported Monday by The Athletic, which said one player was seen performing the Nazi salute while others laughed. That act was followed by comments such as, “Are you a Nazi?” and expletives that disparaged Jews.
The Kings issued a statement saying they’ve been in “regular communication” with the Jr. Kings since Kings executives were made aware of the March 9 incident. “We fully supported their decision to indefinitely suspend all players and coaches after they conducted an immediate internal investigation,” the statement said. “The LA Kings have zero tolerance for this type of behavior. We now await the results of the SafeSport investigation done by CAHA, on behalf of the Pacific District and USA hockey.”
The U.S. Center for SafeSport is an independent nonprofit that is committed to ending abuse in sports, according to its website. It is partly funded by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Jr. Kings posted a statement on their website last week acknowledging that the players in the video were team members and that the suspension had been imposed. The statement, signed by L.A. Jr. Kings President Steve Yovetich, also said players and coaches will be required to participate in an educational program that will administer sensitivity and social media training.
“We are a club that prides itself on being a community; one that fosters values such as friendship, respect and teamwork, and upholds ideals like diversity, equality and tolerance,” the statement said. “Two significant components of community are responsibility and accountability, and the LAJK recognize the importance of action beyond words. We have long claimed we foster the growth of student-athletes and leaders both on and off the ice. It is the LAJK community’s responsibility now to show how our actions contribute to both, and hold ourselves accountable to accomplishing these goals.
“The events on March 9 are regretful to many, especially the players and parents. We will work together to educate and grow, and in this regard lead with action. The LAJK will continue to cooperate to the extent necessary to assist in a thorough and complete SafeSport investigation. The LAJK have zero tolerance for SafeSport violations within the club and youth hockey, and furthermore we will uphold any additional actions required by CAHA and the Pacific District to demonstrate our commitment to USA Hockey goals and principles.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center — the Los Angeles-based organization that fights anti-Semitism — said in a statement, “This is outrageous. At a time when anti-Semitism is so prevalent all over the world, we discover that in our own back yard an LA Junior Kings hockey team made anti-Semitic remarks and Nazi salutes mocking Jews.