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One of the women involved in a social media scandal involving NHL player Brandan Leipsic is determined to take the high road, despite being the subjects of several misogynistic and demeaning leaked messages.
On Tuesday morning, Nicole Zajac received an anonymous email containing screen shots from a private Instagram conversation between four hockey players: Brendan Leipsic (who had his contracted terminated by the Washington Captials on Friday), his brother Jeremey Leipsic (University of Manitoba Bisons), Jack Rodewald (prospect for the Florida Panthers) and Jackson Keane (University of North Dakota).
The 22-year-old body positive influencer was just one of the multiple women, including wives and girlfriends of Leipsic’s NHL teammates, mentioned in the 55 leaked screen shots. Although the men discussed drug use and sexual encounters, the messages mainly contained misogynistic, body-shaming and degrading content about the women.
Zajac, who grew up in Winnipeg with some of the men, said she was “shocked” to read the messages from people she considered “acquaintances.” The Winnipeg-based content creator has amassed a large following (31,000 and counting) for her positive themes of body acceptance and self-love.
“There is so much more to you than your looks. You are worth so much more than the number on the scale,” Zajac said in an interview with Global News. “I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am… to accept my own body. I’ve been sent multiple hateful messages in my lifetime. But for each hateful message, I probably get 1,000 positives.”
Zajac said she debated on how she was going to address the scandal. She ultimately decided to use the situation and her platform to remind women that they are more than their bodies.
In her latest post to social media, Zajac shared two images of herself: one containing excerpts from Leipsic’s messages in which she was referred to as a pig, and a separate image, containing the positive messages she’s received from followers.
“No point focusing on the terrible things people say about you when there are way more positive things that you can be celebrating,” she wrote in the caption.
Zajac thanked her followers for their support and announced she was taking some time to focus on her mental health.
“After 72 hours of dealing with social media, I think it’s fair to say I need a little bit of a break,” she wrote followers via Instagram stories. “You are all amazing, thank you for reaching out. I am okay. But I am mentally and emotionally drained and just now releasing all [of] my emotions. I will get to replying to your messages, but for now I’m taking care of my mental health and logging off.”
According to Zajac, two of the men have contacted her to apologize privately. Brandon Leipsic issued a public statement on Wednesday, apologizing for his “inappropriate” and “offensive” messages.
“I am committed to learning from this and becoming a better person by taking time to determine how to move forward in an accountable, meaningful way,” he added. “I am truly sorry.”
The NHL released their own statement calling Leipsic’s and Rodewald’s behaviour “inexcusable.”
“The National Hockey League strongly condemns the misogynistic and reprehensible remarks made by players Brendan Leipsic and Jack Rodewald...” the statement read. “There is no place in our league for such statements, attitudes and behaviour, no matter the forum.”
On Friday, the Washington Capitals placed Leipsic on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract.