Houston Aeros Player Tweets Gay Slur

Justin Fontaine is sitting out two games as punishment for using the word "faggot" in a tweet, and Aeros captain Jon DiSalvatore is also under fire for retweeting him.

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On Tuesday morning, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Justin Fontaine, a Minnesota Wild prospect playing for the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros, had been suspended by the team for two games due to his use of a homophobic slur on Twitter.

It happened during Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast, when Fontaine responded to teammate Dave McIntyre’s positive tweet about the Foo Fighters by calling them “the Foo Faggots.”

As David Carr of the New York Times wrote earlier this week with regards to a similar incident involving since-suspended CNN commentator Roland Martin during the Super Bowl:

The great thing about Twitter is it offers a friction-free route to an audience — if it can be thought, it can be posted. That’s also the bad thing about Twitter.

By the time Fontaine’s suspension was announced, the tweet had been deleted, and the 24-year-old rookie, who is the Aeros’ second-leading scorer, had apologized: 

But as Minnesota Wild fan blogger BReynolds of the SBNation site Hockey Wilderness noted (h/t to Whitney Radley of CultureMap Houston), Fontaine’s comment had also been retweeted by Aeros captain Jon DiSalvatore, which escaped the Aeros’ notice long enough to propagate embeds and screenshots: 

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That old standby of “RTs not endorsements” isn’t germane here; DiSalvatore clearly had no issue with a slur that’s still common in the locker room and did not delete his own tweet until after all the coverage hit. Captains are particularly revered in the sport of hockey, so as the guy who wears the “C” in Houston (“the heart of the team, the leader,” wrote John Royal on the Aeros’ website earlier this season), DiSalvatore’s the one who might have known better.

Wrote Reynolds:

Using the term “faggot” is not an acceptable practice in today’s world. Sure, people still use it. I have no illusions that hockey players are above its use, and have a feeling it is rather rampant in that particular subset. That does not forgive its usage, nor does it make it any more acceptable. The fact that Fontaine apologized means he knows what he did was wrong….

To me, the apology lacks understanding of the real problem at hand. “It came out wrong.” What else could that mean? “It was a roommate battle, nothing more.” Actually, it is a great deal more. The words in the apology show that Fontaine does not fully grasp the depth of the insult that word carries with it….

The fact that a teammate retweeted it [is] doubly bad, and proves the rampancy with which that word likely passes in conversation without them even noticing. It’s no big deal, right? Just another word. Retweet without consequence. The final nail in the coffin? The captain of the team retweeted it. The bastion of leadership, the last line of defense of rationality and forethought. Failure on all accounts.

Outsports‘ Cyd Zeigler Jr., a seasoned observer of sports homophobia, was less critical, praising the Wild’s reaction as “a smart, measured response … Taking someone’s playing time away is a powerful statement, but two games isn’t overkill.” 

Still, like Reynolds, Zeigler questioned the team’s failure to punish DiSalvatore, accompanied by a slap at the thirty-year-old veteran’s playing ability: 

I realize the guy has only made it into five NHL games in his eight-year career, but he shouldn’t get any less than Fontaine.

DiSalvatore’s subsequent tweets did not make him look better:

As Reynolds wrote, “using one of the most disrespectful words in the English language is not a great way to show your desire to avoid disrespect.”

Later, DiSalvatore implied he might be leaving Twitter:

Obviously, that tweet had too many characters to include a #humblebrag.

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