Cam Janssen is getting raked over the coals for his appearance on Internet radio program the "Thom and Jeff Show", and rightly so. The whole segment was stomach-churning, rife with examples of the sort of language and mindset that the NHL has been actively trying to do away with in recent times.
While the shock jock radio hosts didn't seem mind (and neither did these guys), plenty of others did, and on Friday, Janssen did the right thing, releasing a statement of apology through his team, the New Jersey Devils. From Devils.com:
"Earlier this week, I participated in an internet-based radio show in which I used some poor judgment which I now regret. The New Jersey Devils were unaware of this interview, which I arranged myself.
"I would like to apologize for my poor choice of language. The tone of the interview was very casual and off-color, and I lost focus on what is and is not acceptable and professional. I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language. Moving forward, I hope to eliminate that type of language from my vocabulary. I would also like to take this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing, and for the gay community in general.
"I apologize for the embarrassment my comments have caused to the New Jersey Devils management, as well as my teammates."
It will be easy to continue to vilify Janssen for what he said, especially since his apology is clearly a little polished by the team's P.R. department.
(Note the little snippet of Devils' housekeeping in the opening paragraph, as the team makes sure to distance themselves from the Thom and Jeff Show by establishing they never approved Janssen's appearance. Or just juxtapose the eloquence of the statement with the interview that necessitated it.)
But even still, this apology has to signal the moment we begin to put the pitchforks away.
We've all said and thought dumb, offensive crap in our lives, and most of us have been corrected for it at some point. Even if you don't approve of Janssen's knuckleheadery, empathy really shouldn't be that hard to come by.
Patrick Burke has it. In a recent interview with Thom Drance of Canucks Army (a much more likeable Thom), the You Can Play founder laid out his opinion when it comes to screw-ups of this sort. From Canucks Army:
My policy is one of forgiveness because I've been there. For years I was the athlete using homophobic slurs, casually and regularly. Obviously I feel bad about that now, but I also know that if every time I'd done that someone had been there screaming and yelling and calling me an ass-hole, that it wouldn't have been productive. So when athletes, or fans, or anonymous Twitter accounts use homophobic slurs, we try - so long as they show they're learning from the mistake - to support them.
We've all been there, you know? If we're going to go get the pitchforks every time someone does that, then You Can Play is going to need a new President because I'm out!
In short, grace might be the better angle here.
The fact is that YCP is working to eliminate a deeply entrenched way of speaking and thinking from the game, and there's a reason they haven't dropped the "mission accomplished" banner yet. They're far from finished, a point that Janssen's interview illustrates.
But if the goal here is to create a welcoming, understanding community, being welcoming and understanding of people who demonstrate a need for and accept correction is part of it too. As Burke said today on Twitter, "People unwilling to give Cam a chance to learn from his mistakes are doing no more to support You Can Play than he did in his interview."
Progress is often made by correction, and Janssen's statement indicates that he's willing to be corrected. Isn't that all we can ask for?