Sean Avery of the New York Rangers made waves last week when he appeared in a video endorsement of legalized same-sex marriage in New York State for the Human Rights Campaign, becoming what HRC claims was "the first professional sports team to actively promote marriage equality."
On Monday evening, Uptown Sports Management, an Ontario-based player agency that lists 11 NHL clients on its website, reacted to that endorsement via its official Twitter feed.
The author of the tweets was revealed as Todd Reynolds, vice president of Uptown Sports Management, which represents players such as Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators, Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings, Carlo Colaiacovo of the St. Louis Blues, Dustin Jeffrey of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators.
Reynolds did not immediately return a phone call and an email this evening. He did, however, join Cybulski & Company on TSN Radio 1050 (listen) in Toronto to discuss his comments, saying:
"There's certainly a voice for the other side on this particular issue. I was merely responding to be the other voice. I believe in standing up for what you believe in. I'm passionate about what I believe in. And I believe in morality and I believe in right and wrong. I know many people with different viewpoints for what is right and wrong.
"But I'm a little disappointed in some of the response. If you oppose a viewpoint, you're immediately targeted by some people as a hater, a bigot, intolerant, homophobic and many other terms. That's obviously not the case for people who know me. … I don't hate anyone. And I'm certainly not a bigot. But I believe in marriage between one man and one woman. It's a social debate that's raged on for quite some time. In Canada and the U.S. it's a hot-button topic right now. I guess maybe it was how I was raised. I believe in voicing your opinion and not being part of the silent majority."
But what about his clients?
With regard to putting his clients in an awkward spot, and specifically Mike Fisher of the Predators who plays Monday night in Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks, Reynolds said:
"I don't believe it does. It's my opinion. It's something that's an easy response: 'Todd Reynolds commented on that and it's his opinion.'
"I've already been asked, 'What if some of your clients don't agree with this decision?' Well, that's fine. We're going to disagree on all kinds of issues in life. But we have to be able to talk about them.
"... If Mike Fisher or any other client of ours agrees or disagrees, is of no consequence. Nor should they feel the need to comment on it. But I feel Sean Avery or any other player can comment on one side of the discussion ... why can I not comment on it as well?"
Reynolds went on to say that when it comes to certain rights at the heart of the marriage equality debate — child custody, hospital visitation rights — he believes there are other alternatives beyond marriage that can satisfy those needs for same-sex couples.
Whether or not Reynolds put his clients in an awkward position wouldn't even be a discussion had he not used Uptown's official Twitter feed for what he now calls a personal viewpoint. That's just bad business, unless it's a deliberate attempt to position the firm within the context of that moral debate.
Did you know who Todd Reynolds and Uptown Sports Management were before today? Perhaps only within the context of Kyle Dubas, 25, who was an agent for Uptown Sports Management and the youngest person ever certified by the NHLPA as an agent, and now the new general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Reynolds said this was not something that he did "without thinking about it."
You know Uptown Sports Management's name now, just like people on the other side of the debate know Sean Avery's after his moment of public discourse. This isn't to dismiss either view as something less than a heartfelt sentiment; but it's not as if either weren't meant for public consumption.
UPDATE: The National Post caught up with Don Reynolds, the firm's president, and received some comments including:
Would this be something you think many of your clients would agree with?
"I don't know. And really, that is not the basis on which we run our business. We're not asking questions like that of our clients. And frankly, if Sean Avery were a client of mine, I would support him in his beliefs. I would tell him he's wrong, but that's fine. Others will tell him he's wrong, too. And others will tell him he's right. It's a free country, and everybody's entitled to their opinion.
Do you think something like this could either gain or lose you some clients?
"I hope not. I don't think that your opinion about gay marriage or sexual orientation or whatever should ever come into the hockey business. I've been in the hockey business for 28 years, and this is the first I've heard of it."
Again, the players this agency reps are going to have to answer some questions themselves, one imagines. And perhaps some will object to, or agree with, this stance. But, at the end of the day, does any of it affect the negotiation of their next contract?