Akim Aliu accepts apology from Colorado Eagles staffer who wore blackface

Akim Aliu accepted an apology from Tony Deynzer, the minor league equipment manager who dressed up in blackface at a team Halloween party in 2011, and requested that Deynzer not lose his job, the Colorado Eagles said in a statement on Tuesday.

Aliu discussed the incident this week with Deynzer and the owner of the Colorado Avalanche's AHL affiliate. Aliu said he accepted the apologies from both the team and Deynzer.

"Listening to Akim was both emotional and inspirational and a very moving moment in my career," Eagles owner Martin Lind said in a statement. "I let him know how sorry we were as an organization and how it in no way reflects our values. I was appreciative that Akim was willing to take my call and listen to what we had to say."

Aliu called the conversation with Lind "a tough one but a necessary one."

"I believe that we must confront racism head on," Aliu said in a statement released by the Eagles. "I believe the time for big positive change in the sport has arrived and that this moment can be used to promote diversity, inclusiveness, and safety in the sport and our community."

Aliu initially shared the story of the racist incident, as well as photos of Deynzer in blackface, with the Wall Street Journal last week.

Aliu told the WSJ that he was told to show up to the party late. When he walked in, Deynzer "appeared from behind a corner," according to Aliu, who added that Deynzer "was in blackface, wearing an Afro-style wig and a jersey that had been custom-made with Aliu's number and nickname 'DREAMER' emblazoned on the back."

"Guys just started laughing," Aliu told the WSJ. "All I can do is tell my story."

The Eagles tweeted an apology to Aliu after the story was published, and they placed Deynzer on administrative leave. According to the team, Deynzer is still on leave.

The Nigerian-born Aliu, a longtime minor league player who appeared in seven NHL games, has been in the public eye since he tweeted on Nov. 25 that Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters used racial slurs toward him when he coached Aliu with the Chicago Blackhawks' minor league affiliate in 2009.

The accusations led to an internal investigation by the Flames. Peters, who admitted to the incident in a letter of apology to Calgary general manager Brad Treliving, resigned on Nov. 29.

Aliu, 30, is currently a free agent living in Toronto. He met with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly earlier this month to discuss his experiences and how to make the sport more inclusive.

The NHL, in response, implemented a four-point plan, including a platform for whistleblowers and an annual training program on diversity and inclusion in response to recent abuse scandals in its coaching community.