(Warning: this post talks about things like whether same-sex marriage is "wrong" or "a political issue." If you think the whole concept is icky, there are probably some really funny poop jokes you can read elsewhere.)
It takes a hell of a lot of work to get the whole hockey world on Sean Avery's side, but then those who would side against progress have historically worked really hard to maintain the status quo.
Earlier this week, as you are all aware by now, an agent no one had ever heard of tweeted on the official Twitter feed of a completely unknown agency, representing players no one cares about. He called Sean Avery's support of same-sex marriage in New York "misguided" and the entire concept — with marriage in quotation marks, by the way — "wrong."
Later in the day, the head of the agency, and the father of the original tweeter, said that he would agree with the general intent of the message: that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. He also drew a parallel between homosexuality and bestiality, saying without a hint of irony that if a man can marry another man, what is to stop a man from marrying a horse?
"But the majority, I think, of Canadians would say that they don't agree with gay marriage — that man and woman were created to be married, not man and man or man and horse, you know?"
The condemnation of these messages from the hockey community was swift, thorough and nearly universal. Several other agents spoke out in favor of Avery's position on same-sex marriage, as did typically controversial-but-benign Coyotes enforcer Paul Bissonnette. And by then, the agent in question had already embarrassed himself on national radio, defending a tweet or three that he claims to have thought about in advance with spurious statements he believed to be facts.
So the takeaway from all seemed is simple enough: you can't position your company as being against what many view as essentially a basic civil right. Bad for business and all that, at least in the public's eyes.
But the fact is that many, and probably most, hockey players don't care about the issue one way or another — anyone who's spent any amount of time around professional athletes knows how casually gay slurs are used as insults because, in the lexicon, "gay" equals "bad" — or are outright against it. Plus, most people know that sports fan culture does little to denounce or discourage misogyny or homophobia because SPORTS are for MEN and all that.
Of course, maybe that overexplains things.
After all, the agents made a careful point to distinguish between condemning same-sex marriage and homosexuals themselves. Hate the sin, not the sinner type stuff. And in doing so, perhaps Uptown Hockey attempted to position itself — because remember, the agent claims to have considered the tweet in advance — as The Anti-Gay Marriage Agency, which, in a world as noninclusive as professional sports, could just fill up the coffers.a no-name Sportsnet anchor tweeted his support for the agency's message, got the crap kicked out of him for it, and was out of a job within the space of 24 hours.
These parties chose to line up on the side of an issue that history, as it so often does with intolerance and hatred, will view poorly. The same-sex marriage debate is, at its core, as fundamental a dispute about civil rights. Should one group of human beings have the same right as another, larger group of human beings just because they are different? The answer, always, is going to end up being yes, no matter how long it takes.
Some say opposing same-sex marriage is not hatred, or even based on it. But what we can infer from the comments of those associated with the agency — that same-sex marriage will lead to a man marrying a horse — is that it, in fact, is. To draw a line between the two is to imply, however indirectly, that homosexuals are somehow less than a "normal" human who likes people from the opposite sex.
In his radio interview, the agent said that he was unhappy with being painted as a hatemongering, intolerant bigot, and the microscopic minority on Twitter that supported him parroted the same. That people are well within their rights to have that belief. And sure, that's true. People can think whatever the tapdancing hell they want.
They also think it's a political issue. It's not. People try to make it one, just as they did with segregation in the 1960s. Hell, George Wallace ran for president of the United States on a platform in favor of continuing segregation and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A whole bunch of idiots voted for Wallace, too. And that doesn't make the opinion any less wrong or based on fear and hatred. Most likely believed that they, too, were not racists who hated those of other races. It was just the way things were.
What it is in reality is an institutionalized effort to deny people basic rights that it extends to others on the basis that they are in some way different from the majority.
People are obviously going to disagree with the above. Some will do so vociferously. But no one today, apart from the exceptionally and unabashedly hateful, will say they support denying anyone the right to do anything based on the color of their skin. And 50 years from now, people are going to look back on a time when people openly said same-sex marriage was "wrong" with a combination of horror, disbelief and shame.
It's almost stunning that it took Sean Avery of all people to spark this kind of debate, but because the hockey fan community and even "insiders" like players and agents came out on the side of being inclusive and accepting shows that things are changing.
And hockey will ultimately be better for it.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.
- Sean Avery