Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included the names of two additional SAIT players that were named in the ACAC commissioner’s report. The story has since been updated to remove their names. The report states the commissioner was unable to determine either player made inappropriate comments.
Hockey is often known as a rough game, with tensions running high, fists sometimes flying and insults occasionally yelled between players. But an incident during a college game has one Calgary-based player calling for stiffer penalties when those tensions escalate to racial slurs.
During a game between the SAIT Trojans and Red Deer College Queens earlier this month, Queens player Madison Sansom allegedly yelled a racial slur at Trojan Davina McLeod.
In a video from the game obtained by Global News, the two can be seen shoving and speaking to each other on the ice before a referee eventually breaks them up. McLeod appears to continue questioning the referee as Sansom skates off the ice.
According to McLeod, she was called a “dirty f–king Indian.”
“I got tangled in this girl’s stick, we both went down, we started chirping each other. She was like, ‘Get off my stick.’ I’m like, ‘I can’t. You’re on my stick too.’ Then she turns around and that’s when she said the racial slur towards me,” McLeod told Global News on Wednesday.
“I couldn’t believe it. I’m educated and I’m proud of where I’m from and to know that she said it in a way that was supposed to degrade me or make me feel less was just insane. And I’ve been playing in this league for four years.”
McLeod said the interaction made her feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
“I knew it was in a way to make me feel less than her or to make me feel inferior and that was the grossest part about it,” she said.
“I looked at my teammates, I looked at the ref and the linesman and I said, ‘This is what she just said to me,’ but everyone was yelling at that point.
“It was a big scrum. We were kind of divided because no one really knew what was said or why I was so heated because I chirp, but that was infuriating to me.”
College ‘does not condone the choice of words’
According to RDC, Sansom apologized to both McLeod and the Trojans team in person after the game. She also sent a written letter of apology to the team.
“RDC and the athletics program does not condone the choice of words used by our student athlete,” athletics director Diane St-Denis said in a statement.
“Through its own investigation, RDC Athletics determined an appropriate course of action to include community service for the RDC student athlete, which will be completed during the next two months.”
St-Denis said the program saw the incident as a learning opportunity and had all student athletes participate in a discussion about diversity and respect with the help of RDC’s Indigenous Student Services department.
Tensions high after the game
SAIT filed a formal complaint with the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, and according to its investigation, the conflict between the teams didn’t stop on the ice.
RDC filed a counter-complaint, alleging that more slurs and threats were exchanged between the teams when the clock reached zero.
In commissioner Bill Hendsbee’s ruling, he stated Sansom said she only made the racial slur after McLeod directed one at her -— something the SAIT player denied.
Hendsbee said RDC claimed one other SAIT player made homophobic comments and another used foul language. Other unidentified players allegedly made threats toward the team after the game and during the handshake line, Hendsbee said.
In the game video, players from both teams can be seen and heard yelling at each other with referees again stepping in to break up the confrontation.
The two other SAIT players, who were also investigated as part of the incident, denied making any of those remarks.
While Hendsbee said the allegations against the two other players were “not conclusively established,” he wrote: “I strongly encourage SAIT to speak with its entire team to reinforce that such actions, had they been proven, represent a clear violation of the ACAC Code of Ethics and that such behaviour cannot be condoned.”
Hendsbee said the verbal and written apologies Sansom gave to McLeod and the rest of the Trojans players were “sufficient and reasonable,” adding it was impossible to determine whether her comments “were made in response to similar remarks being directed toward her by Ms. McLeod.”
“To be clear, I am not concluding that Ms. McLeod made the comments in question,” Hendsbee said. “However, I am conscious of the possibility that by taking more severe action against Ms. Sansom, I run the risk of being more punitive than is required under the circumstances.”
SAIT, McLeod disappointed with outcome
According to McLeod, the apology was insincere, which has her and her team feeling more should have been done to discipline Sansom.
“After the game, she was pulled out with her coach. I was pulled out with mine, we talked about it and… it was the most insincere apology I’ve ever been a part of,” McLeod said.
SAIT said in a statement on Wednesday that it was “disappointed with the ruling.”
“We know what matters is not only the statement but the impact on our students,” spokesperson Chris Gerritsen said. “We support our students and work hard to create an environment that is safe and inclusive for all. Our concern right now is for our students and their well-being.”
McLeod said the gravity of the situation has been brushed under the rug.
“This isn’t just about me; it’s about all the other Indigenous players in this league playing hockey.”
McLeod said she thinks Sansom, who is still playing, should be suspended.
“I am strong enough and I have enough support in my end to do something about it and to talk about it so it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Global News has reached out to Sansom for comment. This story will be updated if and when she responds.