GLENDALE, Ariz. - Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres is being criticized for wearing blackface while dressed as rapper Jay-Z at a Halloween party.
Fans and some media started criticizing Torres and his wife, Gianna, after teammate Paul Bissonnette posted a photo on Twitter of the couple both wearing blackface as they dressed up as Jay-Z and singer Beyonce Knowles at a team Halloween party Sunday night.
Torres wore a New York Yankees hat, black sunglasses and a white T-shirt as part of his costume, while his wife wore a sparkly dress with a "baby bump" underneath, a nod to Knowles' revelation that she was pregnant at the MTV Video Music Awards in August.
The Coyotes issued a statement about the costume, denouncing the reaction or claims that Torres is racist.
"There was absolutely nothing racist about Raffi and his wife's costumes. Raffi is a huge fan of Jay Z and his wife loves Beyonce. It was a Halloween party. The fact that this was reported is ridiculous. We will have no further comment," the statement says.
Torres signed with Phoenix as a free agent in July after playing for five different teams over 10 seasons.
The son of a Mexican father and a Peruvian mother, Torres often was the victim of taunts during his junior career, which helped shape his hard-working, hard-hitting approach to hockey.
Bissonnette, an avid tweeter with nearly 160,000 followers, defended his teammate to fans who denounced Torres' costume on Twitter.
"For someone to dress up as one of the most successful couple's of our generation on Halloween isn't racism," he wrote under his Twitter name, biznasty2point0. "You are wrong."
Bissonnette later pointed out that his mother is half-black when someone on Twitter called him a racist for defending his teammate's costume choice.