The National Hockey League is refusing to take action to discipline Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, who was shown on video clearly shouting an anti-gay slur during a pre-season game on Monday night.
The NHL released a statement late Tuesday saying:
"...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."
This is a good sentiment, if the NHL was willing to stand by it with regard to this incident. But so far, it is refusing to do so.
Like so many of the slurs that the NHL alludes to in its statement, hearing a player shout “f**got” during a game can perpetuate a climate of intolerance that pervades so many of our schools and universities today. The NHL had a chance to send a clear message to bullies and to lead by example, but instead the statement continues:
"...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. 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."
This is not, however, a matter of "he-said / he-said." There is clear video evidence of Simmonds using the slur in question. When representatives of other leagues made similar anti-gay comments, those leagues took action. The NBA responsibly fined both Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah earlier this year after both were caught on camera using this same slur during games. The MLB responsibly suspended Roger McDowell after he was accused of making anti-gay comments toward fans in San Francisco. Both leagues set important examples for local and school-level sports teams that the NHL should also follow.
The NHL statement concludes:
"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.”
Tell the NHL to look again at the video of Simmonds, which clearly shows him using an anti-gay slur. Tell the league to prove to ALL of its fans that they are welcome at games. Demand that the NHL stand by its statement that discriminatory slurs "will not be tolerated" - the way other leagues have.
Take action now!
But in that same statement, you refused to take any action to prove that those words have meaning.
Despite what Simmonds or the game's officials might remember, there is unquestionable video evidence, seen here: http://www.twitvid.com/RBM68, showing Simmonds clearly shouting a vile, anti-gay slur toward another player.
When representatives of other leagues made similar anti-gay comments, those leagues took action. The NBA responsibly fined both Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah earlier this year after both were caught on camera using this same slur during games. The MLB responsibly suspended Roger McDowell after he was accused of making anti-gay comments toward fans in San Francisco.
The NHL needs to take responsibility, just as the NBA and MLB did, to prove to all of its fans that they are welcome and appreciated. Please re-watch the videotape and listen to Toronto Maple Leafs' GM Brian Burke, who told ESPN (http://www.espn.go.com/new-york/nhl/story/_/id/7026513/toronto-maple-leafs-gm-says-league-act-sean-avery-called-slur) that this type of anti-gay language is "possible to stop" and that you "should definitely feel the need to use discipline in fines or suspensions."
You've told your fans that they'll be welcome at games. Now you need to prove it.