Ian Cole suspension: Lightning ban defenseman after allegations of sexual assault, grooming minor

Ian Cole suspension: Lightning ban defenseman after allegations of sexual assault, grooming minor

Editor’s Note: The following story contains explicit details regarding alleged sexual assault, and may be triggering for some readers.

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The NHL announced on Saturday that an investigation found no evidence to substantiate the allegations made against Lightning defenseman Ian Cole. It is considering the matter to be closed. 

The NHLPA has responded to the statement made by the NHL, saying they are “pleased” that it has been resolved. 

However, the organizations also said it feels that players “should never be subject to suspension or discipline in response to unsubstantiated and anonymous accusations.”

Last week, a tweet went on by an anonymous user accusing Cole of sexual assault and grooming. As a result, the Lightning announced that the team has indefinitely suspended Cole and the league was looking into it. 

“The Tampa Bay Lightning is aware of the allegations against player Ian Cole and are cooperating fully with the NHL on an investigation. Our organization takes these allegations very seriously. While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time.”

Cole had also responded to the allegations via a message from his agent. In his statement, the defenseman said he “completely [denies] these allegations.”

“I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously. I completely deny these allegations and will fully cooperate with the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning, their officials and legal departments in the forthcoming investigation. I look forward to clearing my name and demonstrating to the NHL and Tampa Bay Lightning that these allegations are unfounded. I will have no further comment until the NHL’s investigation concludes.”

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The 33-year-old defenseman is set to begin his 13th season in the NHL and first with the Lightning, who signed him to a one-year deal this offseason. Cole has spent time with the Blues, Penguins, Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Wild and most recently the Hurricanes. 

Ian Cole suspension details

The suspension of Cole comes after he was accused by an anonymous woman of grooming and sexually assaulting her when she was in high school and college. 

A profile under the name, “Emily Smith”, posted a tweet on Friday, stating details about her previous interactions with Cole, which allegedly started when she was a minor. In her statement, she accuses Cole of “pressuring” her into having sex, “grooming” her and making “derogatory misogynistic comments”, in addition to other accusations. 

“Anyone who truly knows Ian and the way he talks about women will not be surprised by any of this. Coming forward as a victim of grooming and abuse if extremely difficult. It’s easy to have shame and blame yourself, that you should’ve known better, but then I remember that I was taken advantage of as a minor by a fully grown adult man…

As I got older and built self esteem, I started to fully understand the extent of what had happened to me and that this could never have been consensual. I don’t think Ian ever expected me to have the courage to speak out. It is painful to have to relive it, but I hope that this encourages more people to speak out about their own experience of grooming and abuse. Am I am truly proud of myself that I am finally able to have the courage to come forward with the truth. 

The woman also called out the NHL, stating that they need to “hold themselves and their players accountable for creating an enabling environment of misogynistic and predatory behavior.”

This article will be updated with more details.