A Western New York amateur hockey playoff game scheduled for this weekend has been canceled, after video from a previous game between the two teams this season showed one side taunting the other team’s black player with monkey noises.
As first reported by Buffalo news station WGRZ, the video titled “cheektowaga warriors incident” shows the MOHL’s Cheektowaga under-18 team making repeated monkey noises at No. 43 Roshaun Brown-Hall, a player on the Amherst under-18 team, during Amherst’s 4-1 victory on Jan. 20. The footage contains a few different parts of the game where you can hear the sounds—usually whenever Brown-Hall was near the puck—but because of the angle of the video, it’s not clear who specifically on the bench is being racist. As the Cheektowaga team leaves the ice, the person holding the camera says, “Really? No. 6 is doing it,” referring to the player in the No. 6 jersey. The Amherst players, including Brown-Hall, talk to the officials and point toward their opponents, but it’s unclear what they say.
I spoke with Roshaun’s father, Darren Brown-Hall, who said the video was taken by another parent of an Amherst player. Darren wasn’t at the game, although he said his partner was and told him what happened. Roshaun’s coach, Jim Tracy, submitted a copy of the video to the Western New York hockey powers that be, but that’s when Darren started receiving the runaround.
On Feb. 8, Brown-Hall sent an email to Jeremy Rowley, president of the Western New York Amateur Hockey League, as well as Janice Cavaretta, the league’s executive director. He referred to a Feb. 4 meeting where Amherst players were asked what had happened as part of the investigation, and he was hoping for an update on what would happen to the people who taunted his son. Cavaretta replied the same day to say that the investigation had been taken out of her hands:
In response to your letter referencing the unfortunate racial slurs and hateful language directed toward your son during a youth hockey game between Amherst Youth Hockey Association and the Cheektowaga Warriors at the 18 and under age level. The incident in question was brought before the league and I immediately within minutes started an investigation, contacted the disciplinary chair and panel of the WNYAHL, contacted both organizations and personally watched both video clips: the one compiled by the Amherst parent and the unedited video on livebarn of the game in its entirety with audio. However, due to the fact that Amherst president, Patrick Gormley took this to a higher governance above the WNYAHL, the WNYAHL investigation could not be concluded as we were advised that the NY District, West Section President took over the investigation into this matter. The WNYAHL is fully cooperating with this investigation and will continue to do so until it is complete.
Darren said he received radio silence until this week, when he emailed David Braunstein, West Section President of the New York State Amateur Hockey Association, on March 13. The reason he did so was because the playoff matchups had been announced: Amherst was playing Cheektowaga, and he still hadn’t received an update. Braunstein said he would not come to a conclusion before the rematch:
Dear Dr. Brown-Hall:
I received the complaint on or about 02/25/2019 and immediately started an investigation. The incident is taken seriously by me and my staff. I am not finished with my investigation as I need to properly and fairly gather information and I am in the process of doing so. My investigation will not be complete by this weekend’s game.
Darren believed Braunstein kept stalling on a decision so he could wait until Roshaun, a senior in high school, would be out of the league before any discipline could be handed down. (Cheektowaga wouldn’t tell WGRZ if any players had been punished.) Darren called Braunstein’s handling of the investigation “completely unacceptable and irresponsible.” He and Roshaun only found out the game was canceled through a local news reporter. The racist behavior was completely out in the open, and a bunch of adults hoped it would go away when the victim was no longer able to be a target.