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Midget "A" Jr. Oil Barons hockey team forfeits the remainder of their season

Last Updated Feb 14, 2019 at 6:30 am MST

One of the local hockey teams at the centre of a social media firestorm has called it quits.

Parents for the players of the Midget “A’ Jr. Oil Barons hockey team announced the team will forfeit the rest of their games for the season.

The group blames the Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association (FMMHA) for their “rash” actions in naming the team and its players without hearing “both sides of the story.”

As a result, the players, some of whom are Indigenous, received death threats, threats of physical abuse, and online bullying on social media.

The parents also believe their safety at upcoming games would be compromised.

The team will finish the season in a provincial “play-down” competition.

Background

On January 21, 2019, the FMMHA released a statement about the team’s actions in a controversial Snapchat video.

In the video, indigenous players on the team are seen participating in an inspirational dance.

Though not intended to be “derogatory” or “racist”, the social media backlash was severe.

The parents believe this action put their children and families at risk.

 

Full press release:

On January 21, 2019 the Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association (FMMHA) issued a mass email to all members of the association, followed by a media release posted to their website, Facebook page and Twitter account, characterizing the players of the Midget “A” Jr. Oil Barons team as “disrespectful”, displaying “ignorance”, and being “wrong” resulting from a Snap Chat video that surfaced on social media. The video showed a few team members, some of them indigenous, engaging in a motivational dance. This was not intended as a derogatory or racist act. After the video was released, the FMMHA did not contact any staff member of the team with its concerns or inquire clarification of the matter.

FMMHA’s media statement was released within three hours of the video surfacing. This action, coupled with the failure to contact any staff member on the team about the video, demonstrated a lack of thorough investigation to the facts of the video and breached the fiduciary duty it owes to its players in looking after their safety and best interests. FMMHA publicly identified the team name, and thus, the individual players. This allowed third parties to identify, locate, and publish personal information about the players on the team, as well as their upcoming schedule for the remainder of the season.

Ultimately, FMMHA’s brash actions contributed to team members receiving death threats, threats of harm, and humiliating and degrading comments about them on social media. At least one of the schools the team members attend, had police presence after FMMHA’s social media release in direct response to threats made against them.

As a result of the threats towards the team both through social media and verbally, the parents of the team made a choice to not finish the season, as they felt it was too dangerous not only for the players and families, but for the host communities’ players and families as well. Due to forfeiting the remainder of the regular season, for the above-mentioned reasons, the team incurred and paid a $2,100.00 penalty. The team has decided to participate in Provincial Play-Downs as an alternative, in hopes to end the season on a positive note.

We as parents and coaches instilled in these players “inclusiveness”, being a part of a team and accepting all members within that team, the very thing FMMHA purports to value. What FMMHA did is ignore one of the basic tenets of today’s inclusive and tolerant societal norms, namely, not understanding the other side and rushing to a rash, often incorrect judgement.

After failed attempts to come to a resolution with FMMHA, we felt it important to share our side of the story. We as parents are saddened for our children, as the rest of the season was compromised, and they couldn’t play the game they love due to fear from threats, anxiety and humiliation. Since this incident occurred, we as parents are left to pick up the pieces, restore our children’s reputations and try to salvage the rest of the year in the face of such adversity. Our goal is to have these young men focus on one thing, and one thing only, their love for the game. The game of hockey, which ultimately teaches diversity, dedication, teamwork, commitment, the value of hard work and leadership. All valuable skills that will carry them through life.