Parents of Fort McMurray minor hockey players whose team was criticized for an Indigenous locker-room dance say they’re forfeiting the season due to safety concerns.
A social media video in January showed a boy beating his hockey stick against a trash-can lid as he and others jumped around and shouted to a song by Indigenous electronic group A Tribe Called Red.
A statement shortly after from the Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association apologized and called the actions by members of the Midget A Junior Oil Barons disrespectful.
In a statement posted to Facebook this week, players’ parents say some of the kids shown in the video are Indigenous and the dance was meant to be motivational, not derogatory or racist.
The parents say the team has been threatened verbally and on social media, so they decided it was too dangerous to finish the season.
“One of the comments made was, ‘I hope that the next semi that collides with a bus is your guys’ hockey team,’” Shane Kearney, one of the players’ fathers said. “As a 15-, 16-year-old, how do you deal with something like that? As parents how do you deal with someone making a comment like that towards your child?”
Another parent speaking out is Roxanne Janes. She said the team made the decision because they were worried not only for themselves, but the teams they were playing against.
“Because our team name was out there, our schedule was posted all over social media and comments were being made like, ‘This is where they’re going to be. This is where we can get them. Make sure you go find them, make sure you take care of them,’ and we didn’t want to put anybody in jeopardy.
“It wasn’t safe for our players and our families and it wasn’t safe for the host teams that we were going to be attending.”
She told Rob Breakenridge on Global News Radio 770 CHQR that most of the players attend the same school and that the school increased police presence after the backlash.
“Our players walked with their heads up and their backs against the wall,” Janes said. “They didn’t wear their team jackets. They were afraid. They were really, really afraid.”