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League, team punish Lions tackle for tweeting racial slur

B.C . Lions tackle Khalif Mitchell tweeted a racial slur to describe Chinese people.

John Ulan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A B.C. Lion who tweeted a racial slur – a post the B.C. Premier called "stupid" – has been punished by both his team and the Canadian Football League, with the club saying he won't play Friday and the league issuing a fine.

Khalif Mitchell wrote the tweet Wednesday morning.

Mr. Mitchell, an American, said a teammate had asked him who won Tuesday night's presidential debate – Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. In his tweet, Mr. Mitchell said both men hide their money outside the United States, then used a slur to describe Chinese people.

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When his Twitter followers said the tweet was racist, Mr. Mitchell initially denied that was the case.

"It's a fact statement not a derailing of the Chinese," he wrote.

Shortly after, he denied knowing the term was racist, said he meant no harm and apologized.

In response to the criticism, he tweeted: "when did we criminalize not knowing and knowing and still punishing. Ppl. Are really unhelpful. Where's the Love"

He also noted his trainer is Chinese.

The CFL said Mr. Mitchell's comments were "unacceptable" and fined him for violating its social-media policy. It did not disclose the amount of the fine.

Dennis Skulsky, the team's president, wrote in a statement that Mr. Mitchell will not play in the team's next game, even though he was slated to return from injury.

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Mr. Skulsky said that despite Mr. Mitchell's "expression of remorse, we believe this is the best course of action for our organization at this time."

He apologized to anyone who was offended by Mr. Mitchell's comments. He said the team holds itself to the highest standard and is "proud to represent our culturally diverse community."

The team will better educate Mr. Mitchell and his teammates about respecting different cultures, Mr. Skulsky said.

Mr. Mitchell, a ferocious defensive tackle but also a self-taught pianist who cried when the Lions won the Grey Cup, has been punished by the league before. He was fined for throat-slashing gestures three weeks ago and was handed a two-game suspension in July for brutally hyperextending an opponent's arm.

When asked about Mr. Mitchell's tweet during an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark did not hold back.

"It was stupid," she said.

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"We live in a province where we are trying to do everything we can to be inclusive and we are one of the most multicultural places on Earth. I'm incredibly proud of that. It's part of what makes us British Columbians. And I think a comment like that is just dumb and it doesn't reflect any of us and ... it doesn't reflect the B.C. Lions organization, which is a great organization. And it doesn't reflect B.C. Lions fans, and I'm one of them."

With a report from Justine Hunter

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