Akim Aliu accepts apology regarding blackface incident, requests employee keeps job

Ailish Forfar
NHL Editor
Akim Aliu accepted an apology from equipment manager Tony Deynzer, who dressed up as him in blackface at 2011 Halloween party. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Last week a photo surfaced that showed a Colorado Eagles staff member dressed as Akim Aliu in blackface at a team party in 2011. Tony Deynzer, head equipment manager for the team, was placed on administrative leave after the incident became public.

Deynzer and Aliu had a private conversation since where an apology was issued and accepted, according to a statement released by Aliu and the Eagles on Tuesday.

Aliu requested that Deynzer, still with the Eagles, does not lose his job over this incident.

In a joint statement, all parties involved shared that they will join together to promote diversity and positive change within the sport. Team owner, Martin Lind, praised Aliu for his humility throughout such a difficult time.

“It is very apparent that Akim’s heart for the human being is far greater and far outweighs any grievance from the past.”

After he spoke out in late November about the racism he faced from former NHL coach Bill Peters, Aliu has been at the forefront of promoting diversity in hockey. There’s been a notable shift in hockey’s culture since, with multiple players sharing their own personal experiences about abuse and discrimination.

Continuing to spread his message and trying to make an impact, Aliu volunteered with Hockey 4 Youth in Toronto last week. The program provides free hockey lessons for new Canadians, visible minorities and high-priority youth.

At the time of the incident, the Eagles were a team in the East Coast Hockey League. Now in the American Hockey League, they are currently affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche.

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