Winnipeg student targeted in former Rifles president's P.K. Subban post speaks out

The University of Manitoba business student photographed in a racist Facebook post that prompted the president of the Winnipeg Rifles to resign says he hopes the situation will encourage people to be more aware about race and social media.

Emmanuel Okogwu was shown working at Bell MTS Place in post comparing him to Predators' P.K. Subban

Emmanuel Okogwu, a student at the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business and an employee at Bell MTS Place, said he was devastated when he first saw the post from former Rifles president Todd Wilson. (Emmanuel Okogwu/Instagram)

The Bell MTS Place employee photographed in a racist Facebook post that prompted the president of the Winnipeg Rifles to resign says he hopes the situation will encourage people to be more aware about race and social media.

Emmanuel Okogwu, who is also a University of Manitoba business student, got a call from his manager at Bell MTS Place around 11 p.m. on Sunday about the post, made by former Winnipeg Rifles president Todd Wilson. The post showed a photo of Okogwu while he was working selling drinks and compared him to Nashville Predators star P.K. Subban. Both men are black.

"I was very devastated at the moment, because I was not looking for any public attention," Okogwu told Ismaila Alfa, host of CBC Manitoba's Up To Speed.

"I felt that that was a disrespect to me, because I was working hard in my job and I was enjoying the Jets playoffs. And that kind of ruined the experience for me, to an extent."

Wilson has since resigned from his position with the Rifles and apologized for the post. The Rifles also apologized on the team's Facebook page and called the post "insensitive."

The post showed a photograph of Okogwu while he was working at the arena as the Jets faced the Vegas Golden Knights for Game 1 of the NHL's Western Conference final.

The caption read, "Two nights ago he was in game 7. Now PK Suban is selling me beer."

​Okogwu said Wednesday he hadn't seen Wilson's apology yet and he hadn't been contacted by Wilson or the Rifles organization. Two of the players had reached out to him, he said, and he appreciated their support.

A screenshot of Todd Wilson's post, which has since been deleted. (Todd Wilson/Facebook)

"I have heard that the apology was put out there, but I would think that a more sincere way is for him to get in contact with me and apologize for posting a picture of me, and also apologize for the racial comparison between P.K. Subban and I, just because we're black," he said.

"I think that that would be more appropriate."

Okogwu, who came to Winnipeg from Nigeria when he was 14, said he hasn't encountered much racism since he moved here.

"Winnipeg is very diverse, Canada in general is very diverse," he said. "I rarely experience anything close to racism. I experience disrespect from different people, but not to this level. Winnipeg has been pretty welcoming in various ways."

He said he's not sure if resigning was the right choice for Wilson.

"I'm not sure if him resigning is the best step to fix the issue personally, because I do not know the man, I do not hate him," he said. "But if he thought that was the right step to take, then I'm completely with him on that."

If he could speak to Wilson, Okogwu said he'd advise him to be cautious and considerate on social media — and more respectful.

"I would just say, maybe have a second thought before you post something online that can have a backlash or can have other people misinterpret what you actually meant," he said.

"Have respect [for] people of a different race obviously doing their job and not trying to get any publicity or attention.

"Just withhold from harming people unintentionally. Just really think about what you're posting online and the repercussions from what you're saying."

With files from CBC Radio's Up To Speed