Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw is going to be sitting one game for having some choice words (and gestures) towards referees during a playoff contest against the St. Louis Blues. The big reason why Shaw is suspended is because of the fact he used a gay slur towards a ref.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 20, 2016
Video can be seen here, for those who want to try to read lips, but Shaw’s comments sparked a pretty big firestorm with some in the sports world. You Can Play Project, which tries to encourage gay athletes to get into professional sports, condemned what Shaw said yesterday afternoon.
— You Can Play (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 20, 2016
Both Shaw and the Blackhawks apologized for what happened., which honestly they should have done. Shaw lost his cool and did several things which were unsportsmanlike (including throwing a double bird towards referees) and deserving of a fine. But I’m not sure he deserves a suspension for this (which hurts me to say as a die-hard Dallas Stars fan). The only reason Shaw is sitting is because of the video. If TV cameras hadn’t caught Shaw’s comments, he probably would be preparing to play in tonight’s Game 5 against St. Louis. If you compare this situation to a 2005 incident between Sean Avery and Georges Laraque, the NHL seems to react more harshly if there’s video evidence. Via CBC Sports:
Los Angeles Kings forward Sean Avery denies directing a racial slur at Edmonton Oilers winger Georges Laraque during a game this past Tuesday night.
“(He) fabricated the whole thing,” Avery said in Friday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times.
“I have no idea why he would do that,” he added. “I heard about it after the game and was surprised.”
Laraque, who is black, alleged Avery made a racial remark during Edmonton’s 3-1 loss. Laraque said that when he went to challenge Avery to a fight after the Kings agitator got tangled up with Oilers finesse player Ales Hemsky, Avery declined to fight and called Laraque “a monkey.”
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell spoke to both clubs the next day, but said Thursday he didn’t have enough evidence to take any action after he was unable to confirm either player’s story.
The NHL’s policy make a little sense because video can cause PR nightmares. But GOProud co-creator (and huge hockey fan) Chris Barron points out another inconsistency in the NHL.
NHL needs figure this out. Its preposterous that the Bellemare hit (that could have ended a guys career) and a slur get the same punishment
— Chris Barron 🇺🇸 (@ChrisRBarron) April 20, 2016
Here’s video of the hit Barron’s talking about.
That’s got to be more than a one-game suspension right?
It’s pretty obvious the NHL is trying to send a message to players about language, but I seriously doubt this would have happened if Shaw’s stupid comment hadn’t been caught on tape. Maybe the advent of sports cameras everywhere during games will encourage players to watch their language because you never know when you’re on TV. Of course, players don’t always think in the heat of the moment, so who knows.
But this entire situation also has me wondering if the NHL should have let the Blackhawks take the lead on whether a suspension should happen. It’s happened before. The Dallas Stars were planning on suspending Sean Avery in 2008 for making a crude comment about an ex-girlfriend (on tape) before the NHL did (the Stars essentially did when his league suspension was up). I have a feeling the Blackhawks would have considered the same thing regarding Shaw because they are mostly a class organization. There’s nothing wrong with a hefty fine by the NHL, but let the team handle stuff when it comes to public relations issues. If the ‘Hawks did suspend Shaw, it’s likely they’d be praised for their efforts to promote tolerance. If they didn’t, then they would hopefully be derided by the sports world for their inaction (and they would be because the ‘Hawks are heavily involved in You Can Play). It’s all about accountability, or at least accountability when the cameras are turned on. If individual TV networks and companies are able to take action against employees for making public comments, why can’t sports teams (although there’s something to be said for people being allowed to make comments on a Facebook page)? Are we that jaded that we believe it’s all about the trophy at the end, so teams will ignore things? The answer is obviously yes, but letting a league make a decision about some PR issues basically allows teams to skirt responsibility and accountability. If teams were held to a higher standard, maybe situations like the Shaw thing would be even more minimal because players know they can’t screw up. Accountability is a good thing, right?