(JTA) — A hockey player at the University of Michigan has been removed from the team after being implicated, along with another varsity athlete, in an incident of anti-LGBTQ vandalism outside a campus Jewish center.
The announcement last week by the elite hockey team, which said sophomore Johnny Druskinis had been removed “for violating team rules,” came more than a month after the incident, which occurred on Aug. 22.
It also came weeks after the two perpetrators — Druskinis and sophomore women’s lacrosse player Megan Minturn — made a public apology in front of 350 people at a Shabbat dinner in the Jewish Resource Center, the building whose sidewalk they had defaced. The center has declined to press charges against the students, and has indicated that it does not want to see the students face further punishment.
“As far as the JRC is concerned, these students aren’t bad people and certainly don’t need to have their lives ruined,” read a statement by the center that was posted this week, in the days following the hockey team’s announcement. “While they made a poor choice, they sincerely apologized, and we have high confidence they won’t repeat such actions ever again.”
According to surveillance video and photos circulated by the Ann Arbor Police Department, the vandals, one male and one female, spray-painted male genitalia and a homophobic slur on the sidewalk outside the center, a hub for the Orthodox outreach group Olami. The female perpetrator also spray-painted her initials. Earlier reports on social media that they had tagged the building with antisemitic imagery were incorrect, the Jewish Resource Center said.
Soon after the incident, the university’s president, Santa Ono, condemned the vandalism, noting that it came shortly after a Jewish fraternity at the school was spray-painted with a swastika.
“We strongly denounce this act of vandalism and all antisemitic acts. These incidents are in direct conflict with the university’s deeply held values of respect and inclusion and have no place within our community,” Ono said, according to CBS Detroit. “We are proud of our thriving Jewish life in Ann Arbor and on our campus.”
The two athletes’ identities were later verified by the student newspaper, the Michigan Daily, which reported that the perpetrators had contacted the Jewish Resource Center soon after the incident, seeking to apologize, and did so at a Sept. 8 Shabbat dinner. During the apology, students present told the Daily, the athletes said they had been intoxicated at the time and asked for forgiveness.
“Obviously, apologies can be faked, but from what I saw, it seemed genuine,” sophomore Sarah Ostad told the Daily. She added that, while the rabbis at the Jewish Resource Center appeared ready to forgive the students’ actions, “I don’t know if I feel like that. And I don’t think most people feel like that.”
In September, after the identity of the perpetrators began circulating on social media, the university announced that Druskinis had been removed from the hockey team. But university officials have not been forthcoming with more information.
A spokesperson for the university’s athletic department did not provide details to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency regarding the decision or share a copy of the team’s rules. The hockey coach declined to address the issue at a recent press conference. Ann Arbor police also announced that the perpetrators had been identified, but did not confirm whether they were Druskinis and Minturn. University officials have likewise not commented on Minturn’s status on the women’s lacrosse team, and did not respond to JTA requests for comment on her.
The Jewish Resource Center also did not respond to JTA requests for comment. But its statement noted that the themes of the Jewish holiday season concern “judgment” as well as “understanding and forgiveness.”
“We feel continued news coverage of this incident is unwarranted and unfortunate,” the JRC statement said. “From our perspective, it was put to rest weeks ago.”