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Matt Petgrave skates on July 26, 2023, at Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts. | Source: Icon Sportswire / Getty

The professional ice hockey player whose skate fatally cut another player’s neck during a match in the U.K. last month is being peppered with racist abuse on social media after police made an arrest and brought charges of manslaughter this week.

Matt Petgrave, who is Black, is persistently being called a “murderer” and “Black supremacist” by racist trolls online after Adam Johnson, who is white, died from the gruesome injury sustained mid-game on the ice as shown in graphic video footage that’s gone viral.

Although Johnson’s team quickly called the incident a “freak accident,” it was reported this week that local law enforcement arrested a man who was ultimately criminally charged for allegedly committing manslaughter during a match that was played in front of thousands of spectators.

Privacy laws in the U.K. prevent a suspect’s name from being made public, making it unclear if Petgrave was actually the one charged. But conventional wisdom suggests there is no one else to hold accountable and that Petgrave was indeed the person charged.

Either way, in the court of public opinion – at least, among racists – Petgrave is a “murderer.”

Despite the absence of any apparent nefarious intent while competing in a sport in which violence is encouraged and fistfights are literally written into the rulebook, exaggerated social media memes accused Petgrave of “murdering” Johnson and seized upon racist tropes to portray him as a bloodthirsty and homicidal monster who deserves to be executed.

Not all hockey fans in the U.K. blamed Petgrave, who was recently greeted with a standing ovation before a match. (Of course, that got the racists even angrier…)

The nature of the criminal charges for Johnson’s death is unprecedented.

“Even in cases when there has been very serious injury caused to someone, falling short of death, it is often the case that the regulatory authorities of that particular sport or the governing body of that sport will get involved rather than the police dealing with it,” Patrick Maguire, a partner at a British law firm, told the Athletic.

Racism is rampant among law enforcement in the U.K., according to recent reports. That apparently includes the South Yorkshire Police – the department investigating Johnson’s death – which was in the news last summer after one of its constables was fired for being caught using an anti-Black racial slur on a Snapchat video.


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