Another scandal splashes into the NHL
The National Hockey League (NHL) would no doubt have preferred to start its year 2022 with something other than another scandal against it. This time, two former off-ice umpires filed a complaint against the Bettman Circuit, claiming they were fired for no good reason after exposing a colleague’s behavior.
Officials David Walkowiak and James Watkins thus brought their case to court in Florida on Monday, according to TSN. The pair, who worked for the NHL during Lightning games at Amalie Arena, reportedly informed then-Tampa league team manager Ron Brace that their colleague Pat DeLorenzo Jr. frequently used racist terms. However, no action was taken by Brace to punish the offender.
Watkins would have contacted the vice-president of human resources of the NHL, Patrice Distler, as well as a lawyer of the circuit, Katherine Watson, in December 2019, to denounce the statements of DeLorenzo. Distler and Watson then reportedly spoke with Walkowiak to get his version.
According to the two former off-ice officials, DeLorenzo’s negative comments were mostly directed at African-American players and Amalie Arena national anthem singer Sonya Bryson-Kirksey.
“The racist comments were so offensive and intrusive that he started recording DeLorenzo’s comments at work,” the complaint read.
Fear of retaliation
When they denounced DeLorenzo’s actions, including sending in multiple video evidence, Walkowiak and Watkins reportedly made it clear to Distler and Watson that they feared being fired by the NHL by reporting. They would even have been reassured by being told that they would be placed under the League’s whistleblower protection policy.
“[Watkins et Walkowiak] knew that a former off-ice official from another city had been fired by the NHL, shortly after denouncing a situation of sexual harassment at work, ”it is written in the complaint.
Just over a month after DeLorenzo and Brace were fired in January 2020, Watkins and Walkowiak were also fired, allegedly for being involved in a group conversation with DeLorenzo a few years earlier.