WICHITA, Kan. – Wednesday afternoon, a story by the Wall Street Journal surfaced detailing a racist incident Akim Aliu encountered as a member of the Colorado Eagles during the 2011 season, when the Eagles were in their first season as members of the ECHL.
According to Aliu, he was invited to a Halloween party in October 2011, but told to arrive late. When he arrived, current Eagles Equipment Manager, Tony Deynzer, appeared wearing blackface, an afro, and an Eagles jersey with Aliu’s nickname “DREAMER” on the back nameplate.
While describing the scene, Aliu told the WSJ’s Andrew Beaton, “Guys just started laughing,” adding that he succumbed to pressure to take a photo with Deynzer in order to prevent raising a ruckus about the ordeal.
“I didn’t even grasp the idea of how vicious of a thing that is to do,” Aliu said in the article.
Aliu played ten games for the Eagles, before asking for a trade due to the intense stress the incident caused.
Initially, the Eagles withheld comment due to a lack of knowledge about the incident, but on Wednesday, issued a formal apology to Aliu:
— Colorado Eagles (@ColoradoEagles) December 11, 2019
As an organization, the discovery of this event deeply saddens us” the team said in a statement. “Although we had no prior knowledge, that doesn’t excuse or diminish the fact that this has hurt a fellow human being. Rest assured, our organization holds no ego too big or stature so proud that we are above apologies for any wrongdoings. As a family-oriented organization, we wholeheartedly seek your forgiveness and sincerely apologize.
We are truly very sorry, and we will also assure you that this behavior is not and never will be acceptable in our organization.”
Deynzer has reportedly been placed on administrative leave, according to The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark:
Colorado Eagles trainer Tony Deynzer has been placed on an administrative leave of absence by the Colorado Avalanche.
The Sin Bin has reached out to the ECHL, the league the Eagles were a member of at the time of the incident, for comment on this incident and several other questions surrounding it, but have not heard back at the time this story was written.
In recent weeks, Aliu had met with the National Hockey League officials to address incidents of racism involving him and former Calgary Flames head coach, Bill Peters, when the two were in Rockford of the AHL, the league the Eagles are currently in. Peters has since resigned as Flames head coach and the NHL. The National Hockey League, for its part, announced diversity training programs and a secret whistleblower hotline for people to anonymously report issues.