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On Auston Matthews’ Charge Of Disorderly Conduct

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The allegations and some thoughts about them.

2019 NHL Awards Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Yesterday, it was noticed on Twitter that Auston Matthews had a pending criminal charge in the Scottsdale City Court for disorderly conduct. Without knowing more of it, Leaf fans assumed Matthews had gotten into a bar fight or something similar. This didn’t seem to bother most of us too much.

Subsequent to that, several reporters, from the CBC, the Toronto Star, and the Athletic obtained the police report. The substance of the complaint is that this past May, a female security guard at Matthews’ condo complex was doing some paperwork in her car, outside the building at about two o’clock in the morning. She was bothered by the sound of someone jiggling at the handle of her car door. The person in question was allegedly Auston Matthews, and he appeared intoxicated as per the security guard. The guard stepped out to confront Matthews and the friends accompanying him. Matthews apparently said that he had “thought it would be funny”. As Matthews left, he apparently dropped his pants to expose his underwear to the guard in something like a “mooning” gesture.

It is worth noting that none of these allegations have been proven in court, although there is apparently security camera footage of a man with his pants around his ankles. If the person is Matthews it does not seem like the identification aspect of the case would be all that difficult, but as of yet the pre-trial process is ongoing. It is worth keeping in mind that police reports are not definitive, and I can personally affirm I have read reports in the past that said at least some things that were not true. At the same time, a police report isn’t nothing. It’s worth paying attention to, and that’s where we are.

Young, Drunk and Stupid

Some of the reactions that I’ve seen to this news have been mock surprise that a (then) 21-year-old professional athlete would drink too much and act like an idiot. What Matthews is alleged to have done is not a violent crime and it is entirely possible that the only thought involved in doing it really was “this’ll be funny”. More than a few people got drunk and did something stupid at 21.

That’s not the end of it, though.

The fact is that a group of young, drunk men trying to open a woman’s car, while she’s in it, at two in the morning is threatening. She can’t know what their intention is and she’s justified in fearing it might be violent. It’s a lot less funny for her. It’s potentially terrifying, in a way women usually have to live with and men usually don’t have to think about.

We have no idea if the supposed humour in the situation would have come from the guard being frightened, or whatever else Matthews might have been thinking. Maybe he wasn’t really thinking at all, given how drunk he’s reported to have been. We know how the complainant felt, though; that she was disturbed by what happened and said so to the police.

To be blunt here: it’s shitty. It’s shitty to make a woman feel afraid of what might happen to her. It’s shitty if you were doing it as a joke and it’s shitty if you weren’t really thinking at all. It’s goddamn disappointing that the face of our franchise would act like like that, young and drunk or not. Yes, a lot of us did stupid things in our youth; we’re not applying a standard of perfection here. I don’t think most of us tried to get into a woman’s car in the middle of the night.

Where Do We Go With Matthews?

Again, this hasn’t been proven. The facts may not be as we understand them from the police report. And the easy retort is to say that in the end this is, literally, a misdemeanor. Matthews isn’t alleged to have physically touched anybody or to have made explicit threats, or anything on that level of severity. I’m not condemning him as a human being, I don’t think the organization should cut ties or anything like that. We can view this in proportion, as what it is.

But what it is is, well, shitty. It does feel like a letdown. It makes the idea of him being the captain of the team seem out of place because this doesn’t show the judgment for it. It might be naive to expect the best from our athletes, but it’s not unreasonable to have a standard that says this kind of behaviour wasn’t acceptable.

If Matthews did do what’s described, I hope he recognizes it for what it was. I hope he tries to make amends and does better. I don’t write him off as a person or player. I just hope for better than this.

Responses

Auston Matthews gave a brief statement this morning.

Thanks guys for coming. Obviously, uh, not something that, uh, I don’t think any of us really wish we were talking about today, but you know, unfortunately, it’s the situation we’re in. I regret any of my actions that would ever put a distraction on the team or distress any individual. I take a lot of pride in preparing myself from the season, and representing the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as I can, so unfortunately due to the situation, now I’m afraid I can’t really make any other comments. But that’s all I have, and thank you guys for coming out.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie quoted the team’s response earlier:

Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock:

Leafs’ defenceman Morgan Rielly: