I am sure you've heard a number of differing opinions on the NHL's disappointing decision to not punish Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds for the homophobic slur uttered at the Rangers' Sean Avery Monday night. Yeah, I don't think anyone was too surprised at this outcome when it was announced that instead of new sheriff Brendan Shanahan handling the disciplinary hearing, it would be his predecessor Colin 'Lazy Eye' Campbell. And despite what seemed to be pretty compelling video evidence, Campbell stated that there was inconclusive evidence and as such, no further discipline. Really? Stevie Wonder could read Simmonds' lips. It was obvious. It was also stated that further incidents such as this could result in a 2 minute penalty. More on why this is a major screw up for the NHL, plus apparently the Canucks are playing in Anaheim tonight, after the jump...
Ex-NHL'ers like Aaron Ward, whose getting a pretty solid reputation for being a straight-up and insightful commentator laid out the exact problem on Twitter when he stated that this insult is used every game by players. There's been lots of discussion about how many of the grown men playing in this league learned these slurs as kids playing in small town rinks. It doesn't mean what you think it means, some have even suggested.
Right now, the NHL is having some growing pains as players are being suspended because they're having trouble adapting to new rules. They're changing the on ice culture, and punishing players for hits that show a lack of respect for the safety of their fellow players. And while it's not exactly the same, this is a missed opportunity to do the same about using this word. Society is changing, and much like the way the good majority of society changed it's views on racism (though as we saw with Simmonds just a week ago, it has a ways to go still), most of civilized society knows that racial epithets are unacceptable. And sports, through players like Jackie Robinson and hockey's own Willie O'Ree were huge in helping to bring about the change in these attitudes. It's time for sports to change the culture within the game to reflect what is going on outside the rink.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post absolutely frickin' nails it this morning when he writes:
The NHL's decision not to discipline Simmonds because of what Campbell stated was its inability to substantiate that the homophobic slur had been used, marked the end of the most dispiriting days I can recall since I began covering the league 36 years ago.
It's not merely that the league avoided its moral and civic responsibility in this case, no, not that alone.
Rather, it's, a) the monstrous number of communications via email and Twitter I received from fans, mostly foul-mouthed, who were more incensed at Avery for breaking some sort of implied code by not keeping silent about what had been said on the ice than at Simmonds even if he said it;, b) the monstrous number of communications I received saying that no matter what was said, Avery deserved it; and, c) the sounds of silence from most of the media people around the country and north of the border who essentially weigh in on everything.