The Tampa Bay Lightning suspended defenseman Ian Cole on Sunday after he was accused of grooming and sexually abusing a woman when she was a minor, according to reports.
The allegations against Cole, 33, were made by a Twitter user who posted a lengthy statement to the social media site Friday, tagging both the Tampa Bay Lightning’s official account and the National Hockey League (NHL) in the caption. The accuser, who goes by the name Emily Smith, claimed Cole groomed her and other girls while she was a minor in high school, and she also detailed his alleged sexually and emotionally abusive behavior toward her.
She claimed Cole was fully aware of her age, and alleged he “bragged” to one of his teammates about “sexually assaulting me as a minor the first night we first met.” The girl also tagged ESPN, University of Notre Dame and a number of local and national news outlets in her statement.
— Emily Smith (@emily_smith3333) October 7, 2022
The Lightning suspended Cole following the accusations, and the team is fully cooperating with the NHL’s investigation, according to the New York Post.
“Our organization takes these allegations very seriously,” the team wrote in a statement, according to ESPN. “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.” (RELATED: REVIEW: ‘Shoresy’ Is The ‘Letterkenny’ Spin-Off Taking North America By Storm)
Cole has reportedly “completely” denied the allegations brought against him, and is cooperating with the NHL, the Lightning and their legal departments throughout the investigation. His current suspension is considered paid leave, ESPN noted.