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When the NHL announced the “Hockey Is For Everyone” ambassadors for its 30 teams, one name stuck out: Andrew Shaw of the Montreal Canadiens, less than a year removed from being suspended for a playoff game for “making use of a homophobic slur” while with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Many fans were surprised by it. Some fans were outraged by it.
On Friday, Shaw explained how it happened.
“They brought it to the team, and I volunteered to do it. I thought it would be a good opportunity to help out. What I went through last year, you know, I learned from it,” he told the media.
“Words affect people more than you think. It’s something I learned. With what I learned last year, it’s a good position to be in. I can take what I’ve learned from my experiences and help others learn the value of words.”
After Shaw was suspended, and admonished by the NHL, he said he was “sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks.” And he reiterated that on Friday, as Shaw said he would intervene if he saw someone else using homophobic language.
“I used a word that I never should have. It’s a word that has been used for years, and people need to know it’s not right. Some that use it might not use it towards that community at all, but the word is still hurtful to many people out there, and I think the world needs to know that. It can be viewed similar to a racist comment. Everyone’s equal out there. Everyone’s the same. People should step up and start treating people the way we want to be treated.”
Shaw said You Can Play has indicated to the Canadiens that they’re “happy to have him.”
To the critics of his taking part in the program, Shaw said he hoped his controversy didn’t overshadow the “Hockey Is For Everyone” effort. That it wasn’t about him. “I just want to be there to help,” he said.
Especially because, according to Shaw, he learned a lesson.
“It was a dark time, obviously. It was difficult. You need to grow from situations like that. You need to learn from it, and turn it into a positive as much as you can,” he said.
“If you’re a friend or a teammate of mine, you’ll know I’m a good listener. I’m a good guy to vent to or talk to or whatever you need, so I’m there to support teammates and support people in the community. I’m going to go out there and help as much as I can. Use my past and show people, and talk to people about the power words. I want everyone to be themselves and be comfortable with who they are. If you’re comfortable with yourself, and who your are, that’s the only way to be happy and living. I hate seeing people that are shy to express who they are.”
So was this enough to lessen the shock, or quell the controversy?
When Shaw says, “I want it to be about the program, not about me,” that’s a little hard to square with taking on a very public role with the program. Like, how is it not going to be about him, in some way?
I called this partnership “penance” the other day, and received a thoughtful email about the concept. I think the common reading of the word is that Shaw is being forced to do something because of his past. I don’t believe that. I think Shaw is willingly doing this, but it’s still penance: Making up for his past. It’s sincere, but at the end of the day, it feels very much like Shaw narrowly offering guidance based on his own experiences rather than being a bridge between communities, as is the spirit of the thing.
(But hey, it’s all wait and see, for this entire program.)
Here’s Cyd Zeigler of Outsports on Shaw:
Say what you will about his participation: There’s something immediately admirable about all 30 ambassadors putting their names on “Hockey Is For Everyone.”
Let’s hope that admiration extends to their deeds.
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