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AHL suspends player 8 games for homophobic language

The league sent a strong message to Ben Holmstrom that anti-gay slurs are simply unacceptable.

Philadelphia Flyers v Ottawa Senators
Ben Holmstrom has played seven NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

When it comes to combating homophobia on the ice, the American Hockey League means business.

The AHL suspended forward Ben Holmstrom of the Rochester Americans eight games for using anti-gay language, the league announced Wednesday. He spewed his offensive words during the first period of a home game against the Utah Comets on March 30.

A career minor leaguer, Holmstrom, 34, has already served two games of the suspension. He’ll participate in “diversity and inclusion” training as well.

This punishment is a strong statement from the AHL that homophobic talk is unacceptable, and not just part of the game. The league deserves credit for taking such a strong stance.

For comparison’s sake, the NBA suspended point guard Rajon Rondo one game for calling out NBA referee Bill Kennedy a gay slur in 2015. The PGA didn’t suspend Justin Thomas from any tournaments after he was caught calling himself a “fag” on TV.

Granted, it’s probably easier to punish a little-known minor league hockey player than an NBA star or one of the most decorated golfers on the PGA tour. But don’t forget, sports leagues ultimately hold the power when it comes to disciplinary matters. The length of a suspension indicates how seriously the league in question views the offense.

As Cyd Zeigler wrote, sports admirably embrace suspensions, and not cancel culture, as a response to homophobia. No athlete should have to lose their career for one slip up.

But they should face consequences, because removing casual homophobia from sports is vital to creating an inclusive environment. The AHL gets it.