An American Hockey League investigation resulted in multiple confirmations that Chicago Wolves coach Bob Nardella called a referee a gay slur, Outsports has learned.
Outsports reached out to the AHL for more information when Nardella yesterday denied the allegation that resulted in a 10-game suspension by the league.
“The American Hockey League takes all reports of verbal abuse and homophobic language seriously,” AHL President Scott Howson told Outsports. “We are disappointed Mr. Nardella issued his statement of denial. Our decision was a result of a thorough review of the incident.”
That review, Outsports has also learned, took place over a three-day period after a complaint was filed by one of the referees who officiated the Dec. 9 game between Chicago and the Texas Stars. The investigation resulted in multiple confirmations that Nardella repeatedly directed the slur at an official, both before and after he was ejected from the game.
The Wolves seem to have stood by the AHL’s decision, saying the suspension is a “consequence of [Nardella’s] actions”:
“I firmly deny that I made a homophobic remark during the game last Saturday, December 9,” Nardella said in a statement. “The accusations made against me are incredibly upsetting because that is not the type of person I am.”
There are many homophobic words and phrases used by people, who then claim they are not “homophobic.” A prominent, recent example form sports is Mexico fans claiming that calling an opposing goalie a “puto” is not homophobic, when its very derivative is homophobic, designed to insult a man by alleging sex with other men.
Brock McGillis, a gay former hockey player now on tour to educate hockey players about the language they use, pointed to this dynamic on X:
Idk what this guy said but I will say there’s many words that people use regularly in the sport and they don’t realize those words are homophobic.— Brock McGillis (@brockmcgillis33) December 13, 2023
Again, not accusing him but he didn’t get a 10 game for nothing… https://t.co/pjFyqarnOJ
McGillis penned an insightful op-ed for Outsports about how it feels for gay athletes to hear people on their own team use homophobic language, and the impact of “casual homophobia.”
Outsports can confirm the term under investigation in this case is homophobic in origin and nature, particularly when used in this context.
Nardella’s claim that he did not make a homophobic remark, despite the AHL investigation, speaks directly to the need to educate people across hockey about identifying homophobic language, and the impact it has on gay and bi coaches, players and fans.