September 27, 2011
Before we get into NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell's explanation for Wayne Simmonds(notes) skating on the alleged homophobic slur on Monday night, take a look at the controversial clip one more time:
"All Players, Coaches and Officials in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free from racially or sexually-based innuendo or derision. This is the National Hockey League's policy and it will remain so going forward."
Indeed, as the NHL has previously suspended Sean Avery for talking about his ex-girlfriend's pro paramours and James Wisniewski(notes) for pantomiming oral sex. Of course, when NBC employees refer to two male players as women, it's good for ratings. Pressing on …
"It also is important to emphasize that the National Hockey League holds, and will continue to hold, our Players to higher standards with respect to their conduct both on and off the ice. While we recognize that the emotion involved in certain on-ice confrontations may lead to the use of highly charged and sometimes offensive language and commentary, certain lines cannot be crossed. Specifically, we have for many years emphasized to our Clubs and Players that commentary directed at the race or ethnicity of other participants in the game (or even non-participants), or that is otherwise socially or morally inappropriate or potentially hurtful -- including as it may relate to sexual orientation -- is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Well, save for this one time coming up now.
From the NHL:
"With that as background, we have looked into the allegations relating to the possible use of a homophobic slur by a Flyers player in the Rangers/Flyers preseason game last night in Philadelphia. Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom. Specifically, Flyers Player Wayne Simmonds has expressly denied using the homophobic slur he is alleged to have said."
Yes, who can forget Simmonds' emphatic denial of this allegation after the game, when he told reporters … oh, wait, he only talked about Sean Avery crossing the line with his rhetoric and said, "I don't recall every single thing I said to him," not denying anything? OK then.
"Additionally, none of the on-ice officials close to the altercation in question heard any inappropriate slurs uttered by either of the primary antagonists. In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night's events. To the extent we become aware of additional information conclusively establishing that an inappropriate slur was invoked, we are reserving the option to revisit the matter."
Translation: If this clip exists, what the hell else is out there we haven't seen yet?
Here's where Simmonds has been truthful: Avery provoked the whole thing. He probably said things to draw out that reaction.
But Simmonds got caught saying something he shouldn't have said with the cameras on, and whoever is advising him told him to deny, deny, deny because there's no audio, because this is the kind of thing that cost Kobe Bryant $100,000 and because his accuser was Sean Avery.
And with that, we turn the mic over to a Puck Daddy reader named David who has written an open letter to a gay NHL player:
Hi, my name is David, and I'm a gay hockey fan. Every day during the season I'm poring over highlights and stats, and each day in the offseason I hunt the internet for every shred of information on my team. While I don't know the names of each of the 600+ players that will be on a starting roster, I do know one thing: at least one of you is gay. I need to ask you a favour, and it's a bit of a big one.
Please, please, please come out.
We're an invisible minority. People assume that since they can't tell who we are on sight, we don't exist. So far, there are no gay people in North American pro sports, we're just not there. But you can change that. You can instantly become a role model to thousands of young men who are afraid of continuing in sports that they love for fear of being outed and cast out. You can be a beacon, a trailblazer. You can make history.
You may say "I'd rather be known for my skill", but you already are. You're in the best league in the best sport in the world, and no-one will be able to take away the fact that you've made it there on your own merits.
You may say "It'll be a distraction", but people have said that about the religions of Nazem Kadri(notes) and James Reimer(notes). People said that about the race of Willie O'Ree and Grant Fuhr. People said that about the language of the Russians, and the Swedes, and the Czechs.
It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. Your first game after you come out, someone will call you a faggot or a nancy. There are a million terms, and you've probably heard them all. But this time it will be specific and targeted.
Your response? Beat the hell out of him. Drop the gloves, right away. Show him that just because you're gay, it doesn't mean you're soft. Quite the opposite in fact. Show him and show everyone that you won't back down. Your teammates will support you. Who wants to be the guy who gives up on a teammate who's just done something courageous?
Come out. The biggest reward comes from taking the biggest risks. I don't know who you are yet, but I hope that will change.
And we're sure when he does, the NHL will have his back ... provided there's ample audio evidence, multiple witnesses and Sean Avery isn't involved.