The prejudice and bigotry experienced by minorities is normally NOT the kind of big, shocking and unconscionable acts that are recorded and broadcast on cable news.
Instead, they are subtle and transient experiences, ones faced repeatedly that accumulate every day. Eventually they can overwhelm you. They're insidious.
Last night the Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw called a referee a faggot. Twice. This was another example of one of those subtle experiences of prejudice that can slowly and gratingly accumulate on you every day. (Tweet used with permission.)
As someone who has been on the other side of homophobic slurs? As young as 15? Fuck Andrew Shaw.— Sarah Hall (@sarahhowling) April 20, 2016
There were predictable responses defending Shaw, like this comment on Deadspin.
We are in a different time. This isn't the 1950s with Foster Hewitt broadcasting games on radio from his booth 200 feet above the ice. We live in an era where the league's national broadcaster in Canada touts its 4KHD TV ensures you won't miss even the smallest detail of action in a game.
It's a time where both broadcasters and fans have cameras that are recording every single thing that happens.
How could one believe Shaw's comments "should stay on the ice" when I can clearly see them 1,000 km away on a screen in my living room?
Andrew Shaw on whether he used a gay slur after his penalty: "Emotions were high. I don't know what I said. I wasn't happy with the call."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 20, 2016
For Shaw to say "I don't know what I said" was cowardly. To further blame it on "emotions being high" is ignorant.
Greg Wyshinski noted that a similar incident happened in 2011 involving Wayne Simmonds. In that case the NHL waived punishment because there was no audio to 100% verify the comments. Even though everyone could see clearly what words he mouthed, the league claimed they had to assume innocence because of a misguided obligation to uphold the standard of 'reasonable doubt,' something that in reality is applicable to nothing other than prosecution of criminals by the state.
So in 2011, the standard was whether the player admitted to it and if anyone had heard it. Well, Shaw doesn’t admit to it. And let’s say for argument’s sake no one heard him say it around the penalty box. What does the NHL do five years after letting Simmonds off the hook for a nearly identical offense?
If the NHL wants to retain the confidence of its LGBT fans it simply cannot respond in the same manner it did in 2011.
This does not mean there needs to be a horrific penalty on Shaw. It doesn't even necessitate a suspension, though his separate act of flipping the bird at the officials would be considered in addition to his comments and may make it worthy of one.
We are aware of tonight's incident and will be reaching out to the NHL immediately to assist in an appropriate response.— You Can Play Project (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 20, 2016
I would seriously hope that YCP's help isn't even needed here. What must happen next is simple, and obvious:
- Shaw should acknowledge what he said. He cannot hide from it. We ALL saw it. He absolutely did not conveniently forget it.
- Shaw should apologize for saying it and for denying he said it.
- Shaw should explain why what he said was wrong.
This all needs to happen TODAY.