TORONTO – The NHL has determined that Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly did not direct a homophobic slur at referee Brad Meier during Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As a result, no suspension will be handed out.
In a statement, the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said “League officials interviewed several participants in the game — including Rielly and Meier — and reviewed audio of the alleged incident. All of those interviewed adamantly denied that Rielly uttered a slur and the audio supported their statements.”
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 12, 2019
The incident in question occurred late in the second period of the Lightning’s 6-2 win over the Maple Leafs. TV microphones caught audio of what sounded like a homophobic slur, but it was unclear who had said it.
“The National Hockey League does not tolerate language or gestures that disparage anyone based upon their race, creed or sexual orientation,” Campbell’s statement said. The NHL also “continues to work to ensure that our games are played in a welcoming atmosphere for all of our players, coaches, officials and fans.”
After the game, the NHL opened an investigation into the incident and Leafs GM Kyle Dubas released the following statement.
“The issue of homophobia is one the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club strongly condemns and takes very seriously,” Dubas said Monday. “We are in communication with the NHL and are cooperating fully with their office.”
Dubas told reporters on Tuesday the issue of homophobia — used in a discriminatory or casual way — is not taken lightly by the organization.
“Our whole goal as an organization is, not only within our locker room but within all our facilities, that this is a safe, not only safe, but a very welcoming place for people of all sexualities, sexual orientations, or people who are questioning both,” he said.
“Obviously when events like this come up it forces you as an organization to evaluate where you’re at,” Dubas added. “Are you doing enough? And it’s something that Brendan (Shanahan) and I have talked about at length throughout the five years that we’ve been here in conjunction with Steve to examine where we’re at, what we’re doing, and how we can continue to reach our objective to make not only our locker room but all of our facilities a safe and welcoming place for all people.”
While it was determined that Rielly did not utter a homophobic slur, Dubas said this kind of situation provides an opportunity to look at how these kinds of matters are dealt with, and how the league can continue to create an accepting and open environment.
Rielly, who grew up on Metro Vancouver’s North Shore, said he was made aware of the claims after he got home following Monday night’s game.
“At that point I came back to the rink to meet with Kyle and we talked about things and I told him what happened,” he told reporters. “At that point we agreed to let the process play out with the league because they were going to take action.”
He said he was “confident” that he didn’t say what reports had suggested, and added it was tough to not make a statement in the moment.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us as a team to realize that there’s really no place for slurs like that in sport and in life and moving forward I think it’s important that we realize that and I’m happy that the statement came out the way it did,” Reilly said.