Sunday, January 1, 2012

Letter to the NHL Regarding LGBT Treatment

Note: We've seen three ugly incidents this year in the NHL, two racist and one homophobic.  During the preseason a fan threw a banana at black forward Wayne Simmonds.  The fan was arrested and charged with engaging in a prohibited activity.  A few days later Simmonds was caught (video, no audio) uttering the word "faggot" at LGBT-friendly player Sean Avery.  Simmonds was not punished.  Now Krys Barch was ejected from a game for using an ethnic slur (no video or audio) at black defenseman P.K. Subban.  His hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.  If the NHL chooses to punish Barch with evidence similar to the Simmonds incident, it is essentially giving an allowance to homophobia.

Letter after the jump.

To Whom it May Concern;

I am interested in what will come of the Krys Barch - P.K. Subban incident, specifically considering the similarities to the Sean Avery - Wayne Simmonds incident that happened earlier this season.  Based on the information available, it seems that both incidents had an official nearby, but no audio to verify what was actually said.  Simmonds had a hearing and got off scot-free.  Now Barch has a hearing on Tuesday.  I'm concerned that if the NHL takes disciplinary action against Krys Barch that it is sending a message that homophobia will be tolerated while racism will not.

The mere fact that officials couldn't remember what Simmonds said is troubling because it suggests that protecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered fans and players is not even on the NHL's radar.  That an ethnic slur rings loud and clear in an official's ears and a homophobic slur is forgettable suggests a problem within the NHL's culture and among it's officiating ranks.

Speaking as a bisexual and transgendered hockey fan, I have a hard time feeling safe inside NHL arenas with the implication that the NHL is unwilling to protect its LGBT fans and players. After all if the league is either going to turn a deaf ear to, or excuse homophobic speech, how can I expect it to properly handle physical violence perpetuated against LGBT individuals?

At this point, the NHL's relationship with the LGBT community may be beyond repair.  The NBA and MLB didn't mince words or offer generic statements (like the ones uttered by Brendan Shanahan and Colin Campbell), they dropped the hammer on Kobe Bryant, Joakim Noah, and Roger McDowell respectively.  (Bryant and Noah were fined heavily, McDowell was suspended, fined, and sent to sensitivity training.)  As a league that has yet to see a team join the It Gets Better Project aimed at curbing LGBT bullying (compared to nine teams between the NFL and MLB), the NHL is looking very LGBT-unfriendly.

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