OHL suspends players 15 games for abusive comments made on Tinder

Greg Betzold of the Peterborough Petes was one of two players suspended by the OHL. (Getty Images)
Greg Betzold of the Peterborough Petes was one of two players suspended by the OHL. (Getty Images)

The Ontario Hockey League suspended two players 15 games each Wednesday after abusive comments they allegedly sent to a woman or women on the social media app Tinder became public.

The OHL is part of the major junior Canadian Hockey League and a large feeder of talent to the NHL. Its players range in age between 16 and 20 years old.

Greg Betzold, 19, of the Peterborough Petes, and Jake Marchment, a 19-year-old forward for the Belleville Bulls and sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, were the players suspended.

Here is the statement from the OHL regarding its severe disciplinary action:

These suspensions follow recent social networking activity that has come to the League’s attention.  This most inappropriate and concerning activity contravenes the League’s social networking policy and a number of other policies including Respect in Sport (Harassment and Abuse) and diversity. 

The OHL takes issues related to respect, diversity and harassment very seriously.  The social networking conduct displayed by these players goes against what the League stands for and serves to highlight a sense of entitlement that we, as a League, have worked hard to try to eliminate.  We believe these suspensions, going forward, will reinforce to our players that all activity, be it in person, on the ice or online, must be in keeping with our policies.  These events further illustrate that the League and our teams must continually work with our players to ensure they understand and appreciate our social networking policy.  The League will also look to our current programs, outlined in our Players First Guide, to see where improvements may be made in terms of communications and respect for others.

Sunaya Sapurji of Yahoo Sports Canada provided the blow-by-blow of the alleged incident:

Earlier this week a private conversation between the Peterborough Petes player and a woman on the dating app Tinder was made public. In part of his conversation with the woman he calls her a "pure bread (sic) dumb stupid [expletive].”

A second private conversation, allegedly involving another player on the same app, also was disclosed. According to sources the second player has denied having made the scurrilous comments and the Ontario Hockey League is investigating. On Tuesday evening, Belleville Bulls forward Jake Marchment, a Los Angeles Kings prospect, took responsibility for those comments and apologized via his Twitter account.

Like Betzold, when the advances are rejected, the other conversation becomes thick with misogyny and entitlement.

“Babe I play in the O and got drafted to the NHL ya I get turned down so much…Lolz you ugly [expletive].”

Screen caps of the comments were shared widely on Twitter. (LINK WARNING: The language used is graphic and offensive.)

Both issued public apologies:

Tuesday, before any suspensions had been levied, Sapurji’s report quoted an OHL official saying that the league was investigating, but that they had been “preliminarily satisfied” with the way that the Peterborough Petes had handled the situation, which the Petes would not address publicly. Either the investigation uncovered more details, or the growing spotlight on this incident became too bright to ignore.

By issuing a suspension, and an awfully heavy one, the OHL is making a strong statement about how it expects its players to act off the ice. Each player’s apology mentions that their comments were in private, but there is no venue in which that kind of harassing language is acceptable.

In the wake of several high-profile incidents of domestic violence, including an alleged incident that led to the arrest of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov,  the treatment of women by male athletes has come to the forefront. Domestic violence and other types of assault, verbal or physical, is rightly under the microscope. Professional sports leagues as a whole are becoming more deeply concerned about these issues, or at least how to punish this type of behavior.

The OHL, as a league responsible for the development of young men, really had no choice but to make an example out of the players in question. This sends the message that women are not to be spoken to in the manner these players have apologized for. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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