Acadia Axemen player admits slur but says he's been taunted as well
'In the heat of the moment, I singled him out, saying "You look like a little ******* rapist"'
An Acadia Axemen player has admitted to taunting a member of the St. Francis Xavier men's hockey team with an inflammatory slur moments before a bench-clearing brawl in Wolfville, N.S., that resulted in suspensions for more than a dozen players and coaches from both teams.
In a statement released late Thursday night, Rodney Southam, 22, said he and Sam Studnicka started exchanging words in the third period of a "usual, high-intensity game against a highly skilled team" last weekend after Studnicka sprayed a water bottle over Southam's back.
"In the heat of the moment, I singled him out, saying 'You look like a little ******* rapist,'" said Southam.
"Immediately after my comments to Sam, I realized something more was happening because of the reaction from the team and surrounding coaches. I know when this was said that the linesman heard it and so did the X-Men players on their bench."
Atlantic University Sport (AUS) announced Wednesday that nine St. Francis Xavier players have been handed suspensions adding up to 21 games as a result of the fight. Six Acadia players have received suspensions adding up to 14 games.
Both coaches were also suspended for two games.
In a statement issued shortly after the game, Studnicka — among the players suspended — said the brawl started because an opposing player had made a derogatory comment involving a sexual assault survivor.
AUS executive director Phil Currie said Wednesday that a linesman heard a player use the word "rapist" before the brawl started.
Southam revealed in his statement that as a junior hockey player, he was accused of sexual assault. He said he is innocent and after a year of legal process, the allegations against him "did not proceed."
However, he said, opponents put the accusation to use on the ice.
"I carry these allegations with me and ... in every game in which I played, my opponents used it to taunt or 'chirp' me," he says. "Because the taunts I endured are ... always in the back of my mind, that's why I think I said what I said in the heat of the moment on Saturday.
"I do know I wish I could take that word back and I should have known better."
Backlash and threats
Although Studnicka said in his earlier statement that he has endured similar comments on the ice for three years now, Southam insists he didn't know about that history.
"I grew up exclusively in Western Canada and never met Sam until my very first game in October of 2017 against the X-Men," he said. "In my year and a half at Acadia, we've had battles with StFX but nothing to do with comments around sexual violence ... this issue has never come up in our locker room or any other time during my year and a half at Acadia."
Southam said he has had to shut down all social media accounts as a result of the backlash and threats he has received since Studnicka's statement. He said he has asked the athletic directors at both schools to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Studnicka in Antigonish.
"All hockey players have done things they're not proud of and in this case, I take full responsibility for what I've said," reads the statement. "However, I did not say anything related to a sexual assault survivor, did not know any of the background behind the reason for the X-Men team response, and have luckily been able to lean on support from my family, my team members, and Acadia.
"In closing, I wish I could take back something I said."