"Well, I’m at a loss. The only… you’ve got to look through his statistics, he’s got some offensive flair, he is not what you would call a rugged, truculent, testosteronic, guy… He’s more of a 3rd of July parade guy. He likes to enjoy the good life and I don’t, I just can’t put a reason behind why you’d give up on a 6’5 defenceman with offensive skill unless he’s just a bit too soft."
- Bill Watters – The Bill Watters Show – July 4, 2011
A ‘third of July parade guy?’ Is this a homophobic slur?
We reached out to the Bill Watters Show last week to clarify what exactly Bill meant when, in describing Cody Franson as soft, lacking pugnacity and testosterone, he referred to the new Leafs blue-liner as a "3rd of July parade guy." (The Pride Parade took place in Toronto on July 3this year.)
We offered Watters several chances to explain what he meant, provide context, clarify any confusion, and/or apologize if this was a comment that he would like to retract. We have not heard back.
If Watters intended this as an anti-gay slur, it is unacceptable. Leafs fans haven’t had a lot to be proud about over the last few years as far as on-ice matters are concerned, but off the ice, the Leafs organization has given us several reasons to cheer. The Leafs have been at the forefront of the developing movement to confront and eliminate homophobia in hockey.
Beginning with the team’s official involvement in the film Breakfast With Scot under the JFJ regime to Brian Burke’s involvement in the aforementioned pride celebrations and Toronto GSAs, MLSE has demonstrated with words and actions that homophobia will not be tolerated within the organization, and that they are committed to being a leader on this issue in the wider community outside the ACC.
Burke’s commitment to fighting homophobia and intolerance, particularly since the death of his son Brendan, has been truly inspiring. While we would like to think that the organization would reconsider their relationship with AM 640, "the home of the Leafs" because of something like this, we realize that will never happen. These contracts go to the highest bidder, and every penny counts (especially if we’re going to buy more Cody Fransons). Moreover, we don't know if Watters reflects the views of the station's ownership.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything about it.
In one sense, homophobia in hockey is a large and complex issue, reflecting issues and anxieties about gender and sexuality that pervade all levels of hockey and the culture around it. Changing it can seem a massive task. But on matters like this, it is small and simple, just like it was when Milbury called the Sedins "Thelma and Louise" or the Reynolds agents blasted gay marriage equality. When we see what appears to be hatred and intolerance we can call it for what it is. We can let everyone know the free ride for casual bigotry and easy hate is over.
Let’s find out what Watters meant. Ask him. Call his show. Email him. Call and email 640 and find out whether Watters' views reflect their own, and if not, what they are planning on doing about it. Tweet your friends and ask them what they think. Write to Glaad and Egale and the CRTC. Watters chose to ignore the two of us; let’s see what happens when hundreds of Leafs fans demand to know why he thinks it’s acceptable to equate gay with weak. The phone lines are open, Wilbur. We're all ears.