The National Hockey League (NHL) says it is investigating an alleged homophobic slur that was used in a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A video circulating on social media appeared to show Maple Leafs defender Morgan Rielly referring to the referee as a “f***ing faggot” near the end of the Monday (March 11) game at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
The since-deleted clip has led to an immediate investigation from the hockey league, which covers Canada and the US.
In a statement, the National Hockey League said: “The NHL is aware of reports that a homophobic slur was used during the Maple Leafs-Lightning game.
“The League is investigating the incident and will have no further comment until this investigation is completed.”
Toronto Maple Leafs ‘strongly condemns’ homophobia
The Toronto Maple Leafs responded with its own statement.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said: “The club is aware of the reports surrounding a homophobic slur used during the Maple Leafs versus Lightning game on Monday night.
“The issue of homophobia is one the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club strongly condemns and takes very seriously.
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“We are in communication with the NHL and are cooperating fully with their office.”
Morgan Rielly has played for the team since 2013 and has also represented Canada internationally.
The player previously issued an apology for sexist remarks in 2015, after he said during an interview: “You just worry about doing a job… you’re not here to, you know, be a girl about it.”
In his apology, Rielly had said: “I want to start by apologising to anybody I hurt with my words. It’s a phrase that has to be taken out of today’s society. And I know I can’t be using that with the media.
“It was careless by me. I didn’t mean it the way it was taken at all. And I want to apologise for the way it was taken across.”
National Hockey League ‘stands for tolerance and inclusion’
In 2016, the NHL suspended a Chicago Blackhawks player for one game for shouting “faggot” during a match.
Blackhawks player Andrew Shaw had shouted the slur while sat in the penalty box after being sent off.
At the time, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said: “It is an unfortunate penalty for the player and for his team, particularly at this time of year, but hopefully it will be an eye-opening response for everyone involved in the league and in our game.
“As a league, we stand for tolerance and inclusion. We cannot and will not tolerate public commentary or behaviour by league or club personnel that is antithetical to those values.”