Jacob Panetta’s former Jacksonville Icemen teammates released a statement on Friday, showing support for Panetta after he was suspended by the ECHL earlier this week for making what the league called a racial gesture at South Carolina Stingrays defenceman Jordan Subban in a game last Saturday.

“Please let us take the time to shed light on the incident that occurred on Saturday, January 22, 2022, in a game between Jacksonville Icemen and the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL,” the players wrote in a tweet shared by Icemen forward Derek Lodermeier.

“During Overtime, an on-ice scrum occurred between our teammate Jacob Panetta and South Carolina’s Jordan Subban. The incident escalated as payers of the Stingrays joined in on the altercation. We knew penalties were going to be given out for their actions and we wanted the Powerplay to try and win the game. In the heat of the moment, we didn’t realize why the altercation had escalated as it did and is also why we refrained from jumping on the ice in defence of Jacob.

“The perception in which Jacob’s actions were taken by some were not the way in which they intended to be. We have seen Jacob do this many times before to those not of color and can be seen doing so in our previous games. The way in which he has been harassed, shamed and threatened is truly not okay for him or anyone. These perceived gestures do not reflect or depict our friend and teammate we have grown to admire and respect today. Jacob is a man of character, filled with kindness, sincerity and compassion for others and we truly believe his actions were not racially motivated.

“Jacob has been portrayed and put into an unimaginable position by the league, media, our organization, as well as others. As his teammates and for those who know him, know the man he really is. We also know that as a hockey player and more importantly as a person does not deserve this. Please consider seeing both sides of this situation and the evidence that has been supported, while understanding the severity and impact that this has brought to him and others.

“With that we would like to express our empathy with Jordan Subban, the Subban family, and those who may have been affected by these actions. We fully understand now, as well as others, how Jacob’s actions could be perceived and how those actions have impacted so many across the World. For this, we are truly saddened and sorry for all the harm that it has caused.

“As we move forward, we need to recognize the challenges we face in society as well as in the game of hockey. We are choosing to stand together in UNITY and want to extend our hand to help educate and support in ENDING RACISM. We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and we are committed in helping strive for EQUALITY. We hope the Subban family and others choose to see Jacob’s actions for what they really were and come TOGETHER in SOLIDARITY.”

The message was not shared on the Icemen franchise’s website or on its social media accounts.

The ECHL has suspended Panetta for the remainder of the season (38 games) and said in a statement that he can apply for reinstatement after March 17 pending successful completion of an education program conducted in conjunction with the NHL Player Inclusion Committee.

Video posted on Twitter by Subban's brother, New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban, shows Panetta making a pose while Jordan Subban was being led away by an official. Jordan Subban then skated back toward Panetta and the two lock up at the beginning of a multiplayer skirmish.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Jordan Subban said Panetta “was too much of a coward” to fight him.

“As I began to turn my back he started making monkey gestures at me so I punched him in the face multiple times and he turtled like the coward he is,” Subban posted.

Panetta posted a video on Sunday, saying he “did a tough-guy bodybuilder-like gesture” that he’s made to other players in other games.