Longtime readers know that this bitch adores hockey. I’m a proud Blues fan and I’m beyond excited that the NHL season is about to begin.
Pause…do the dance of hockey joy…continue.
I follow hockey on and off the ice. For the most part, hockey players are a lot like regular everyday folks…some of them are assholes, some of them are people you can imagine being friends with, others live superstar lifestyles that are impossible to identify with.
Professional athletes are people who play a sport professionally…
…and that’s an important point to hold on to when exploring the complex issue of bigotry and taunting while on the ice.
Full disclosure – I think that the NHL or the NHLPA or better yet a partnership between the two needs to develop rules that support a respectful workplace. That’s the way to look at the issue of diversity and anti-bigotry in hockey…the ice and rink are places where people work and I think that the players deserve the same respectful and inclusive workplace that folks in the front office likely have. I also think all NHL employees could use some diversity training…y’all can’t go around talking about how hockey is for everyone when certain folks are off message like a motherfucker.
In one month we have seen a banana thrown at a player while he went to take a shot on goal and then that player, Wayne Simmonds, turned around and used a homophobic slur to taunt Sean Avery who managed to make news for participating in a pro-marriage equality video in between making news for getting arrested for tangling with police officers at his home in LA and making news for accusing and then being accused of using racial slurs to taunt players of color last year.
He’s an agitator…he’s been accused of using racial slurs in the past by players of color who said Avery really likes to call folks monkeys…and he is infamous for a public display of sexual harassment and disrespect that featured him chastising opponents for dating women he once dated by pondering why players are interesting in his “sloppy seconds”.
I don’t care if Sean Avery called him a monkey…he probably did. Using homophobic slurs isn’t an acceptable response to Avery’s taunts and agitation. It isn’t…won’t be…and should never be.
I support LGBT groups who are now lobbying the NHL to push for the inclusion of homophobic slurs among the shit that players and employees can’t do.
Racial slurs are already included…and note that the inclusion of racial slurs has not ended the use of racial slurs, because hockey players tend to settle that shit on the ice rather than take a complaint to human resources.
I love hockey and I love my Blues…I want the sport and my team to be things I’m proud to cheer for. I want game night to truly reflect the statement that hockey is for everyone.
But I sincerely hope that those championing Avery in this latest dust up pause and consider the opportunity here.
The opportunity is to discuss how to make hockey and the NHL more inclusive…how to improve the climate for all players on the ice…and how to develop policies that empower individuals to meet those goals.
I’m behind that…because that will help the Wayne Simmonds of the sport understand that they need to keep their homophobia out of the workplace and help the Sean Averys of the world understand that they need to keep the racism and sexual harassment off the ice too.
For the rest of us, this dust up is a great example of how bigotry is intersectional…a white LGBT person can be a bigot, a black person can be a homophobe, a man with disabilities can hold anti-Muslim views, and so on and so forth.
As I said earlier, hockey players are people…
…and people are capable of ignorance and greatness, love and hate, a great shot or no hockey skills at all.
This hockey fan is hoping these incidents help us move forward, on and off the ice.