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|NHL missed its chance to condemn homophobic slur|
|Written by Denis Gorman|
|Thursday, 29 September 2011 02:16|
In the aftermath of the Sean Avery-Wayne Simmonds incident, the NHL failed to send a message about homophobic slurs. Was the failure based on Avery's reputation?
Sean Avery stood in front of a stall inside the visitors' dressing room in the Wells Fargo Center a few minutes after the Flyers' 5-3 exhibition win over the Rangers Monday night, talking about slurs – a topic Avery is all too familiar with.
The hockey world should be proud of the NHL's response to the banana-tossing episode, but it should be equally disappointed with the Simmonds-Avery debate and its aftermath.
In short: We're passing the buck.
It is not the first time this space has criticized the NHL for its decision making. It will not be the last until there is across-the-board accountability at 47th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.
Hiring Brandan Shanahan to replace Campbell as the Czar of Discipline is a fine start.
But for all the good that Shanahan has done in his new role – our Frank Seravalli wrote a strong column Wednesday examining the man’s first real weeks on the job – the NHL disgraced itself by not taking a firm position on homophobic language.
The league's stance that it is "unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom," is particularly condemnable since Yahoo! Sports' NHL blog has a video of Simmonds shouting what appears to be the slur towards an unseen Ranger. Simmonds and Avery had spent the better part of the first period Monday exchanging words and punches.
Simmonds was encircled by reporters Monday night and acknowledged having a running conversation with Avery in which both said "some things" that the other "did not like."
When told that Avery reported he used the word in question, Simmonds shifted his argument to Well, If I Said Something It Is Because the Other Guy Is Sean Avery.
"He didn't think he said anything? (It's) Sean Avery. Come on, now," Simmonds said. "Who knows what comes out of his mouth?"
Following Flyers' practice Wednesday, Danny Briere backed Simmonds' Avery Cannot Be Right about This Topic Because He Is a Bad Guy reasoning.
Briere told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he found it "inappropriate" that Avery had threatened to "kill" Claude Giroux. During its broadcast, CSN aired audio (warning: not suitable for work or sensitive listeners) of Avery telling Zac Rinaldo that he did not "want to (expletive) kill Giroux," following a check from behind on Michael Sauer that caused the Ranger defenseman to suffer a sprained shoulder on the play.
Briere said he knew the Ranger "didn't mean it literally but we all know Sean Avery and how much he likes attention," while noting, "it's ironic everyone is defending Sean Avery and it's OK for him to call guys out about killing them."
That this controversy has devolved into a he said, he said, based on who employs these athletes is as unsurprising as it is dispiriting. Especially, when you consider the hockey world – HockeyPrimeTime.com included – widely praised its reaction to the idiotic banana tossing incident in London, Ontario, last week.
The hockey world should be proud of its response to that episode, but it should be equally disappointed with the Simmonds-Avery debate and its aftermath.
Sports are a microcosm of society. Would either occurrence be tolerated – or even tacitly encouraged – by corporate management in everyday life?
No, it would not.
So why did the NHL, with an opportunity to send an unmistakably clear message Tuesday, fail?
On Twitter: @HockeyPrimeTime and @DenisGorman
Photos by Getty Images