Monday, April 9, 2012

My Big Issue With the Buffalo Sabres

If you're keeping up on this blog, you've seen my numerous posts regarding my correspondence with the Buffalo Sabres regarding their affiliation with the anti-LGBT Salvation Army.  After some back and forth discussion, I've had few, if any, of my questions answered.  To paraphrase:

I've essentially brought up everything the Salvation Army has done that is at odds with the welfare of LGBT individuals from trying to orchestrate a backdoor deal with the Bush Administration to skirt anti-discrimination laws, to refusing to aide people if held to those laws, to (in certain instances) refusing to offer benefits to LGBT employees in domestic partnerships and refusing to offer aid to LGBT individuals.  The Buffalo Chapter of the Salvation Army has dismissed these claims as inaccurate and dated.

Not wanting to get into a game of "he said, she said," I changed tack and went after the Salvation Army's own website, something they cannot dispute, which reads "There is no scriptural support for same-sex marriages as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage."  The Salvation Army is willing to put in black and white (or in this case black and grey) that they believe a class of people is inferior.

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All in all I've asked the following questions:
  1. What have the Sabres done to ensure that LGBT people feel pride in associating with the organization and safe in the arena?
  2. Have the Sabres made any effort to extend themselves to pro-LGBT groups?
  3. Would the Sabres consider partnering with It Gets Better?
  4. Why are the Sabres involved with an organization with a discriminatory past?
  5. What kind of research did the Sabres do into the Salvation Army?
  6. Why are the Sabres involved with an organization that admits a class of people is inferior?
  7. If the Salvation Army's website mentioned race instead of orientation, would that change the Sabres opinion?  If so, why or why not?
I have gotten the following answers:

  1. My contact essentially gave no information at first.  When pressed, he admitted that the Sabres had begun work on an anti-bullying PSA in conjunction with the City of Buffalo, inspired by the suicide of gay Buffalo teen Jamey Rodemeyer.  Information on this PSA has been sparse at best and I have literally had to drag it out of people involved with the Sabres.  If you look for the PSA on Google, you only get a handful of hits, one of which is an article which says the video is available on the City of Buffalo's website (it is not) and on Mayor Brown's Facebook page (it is not).
  2. The Sabres had made little to no effort to join with LGBT groups at the time I asked.  I have no idea if the anti-bullying PSA was a creation of the Sabres or the City.  Sabres Captain Jason Pominville did join the You Can Play Project, which I believe was tweeted by members of the organization.  However I have not seen Pominville's spot specifically played at the First Niagara Center and my colleagues at other blogs have not seen it played for their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Amerks.  One has to wonder if the Sabres have deliberately avoided playing the piece done by their player because they don't want to be linked to a pro-LGBT group.
  3. The Sabres will not be partnering with It Gets Better because they feel the project hones in too closely on LGBT-inspired bullying and that "bullying is not a problem exclusive to LGBT."
  4. My contact has had no answer for me as to how the Sabres grew to be involved with the Salvation Army.  No one within the organization seemed to know of the Salvation Army's anti-LGBT history.
  5. My contact would not answer this question.  As far as I can tell, the Sabres "research" consisted of asking the Salvation Army of its history.  Not surprisingly the Salvation Army disputed the claims.  They have however offered to open up a dialogue with me.  I told my contact that I was representing a number of people and that they might want to sit in.  I have not received a reply since.
  6. My contact has refused to answer this question.  He maintained that they believed that they (the Sabres) had "asked honest questions and gotten honest answers."  I asked this again and have received no response.
  7. My contact refused to answer this question.
At some point during this discussion, the Sabres Twitter account blocked my personal account.  Whether the timing coincides with some of my more contentious points or whether the action is a result of the above dialogue is unknown.  I have asked and gotten no response, though it has only been two full days.

I think there were plenty of good answers to be given to the questions I asked, even the more difficult ones.  I think that if answers had been more forthcoming from the beginning, or if my contact had been able to make reassurances that the Sabres have their LGBT fans in mind, some of the more difficult questions would have never gotten asked.  The Sabres' desire to remain in the shadows on this issue, giving information only when pressed suggests some very negative things about the organization.

I can only speculate, but I think one of two things is at play:
  • The Sabres have strong ties with the Salvation Army that they are unwilling to break, either because they feel they owe the Salvation Army something, because someone within the organization is affiliated with the Salvation Army or because they fear the backlash that may result in breaking from the Salvation Army.  I highly doubt the latter because they could pick things up with Goodwill, a similar organization, without missing a beat.
  • The other is more insidious.  It is possible that someone within the organization is either overtly anti-LGBT, or very afraid of alienating any conservative fans that may be potentially anti-LGBT.  I would hope for the lesser of two evils, the latter, that there is a desire within the organization to avoid "controversy" by hiding organizational support of a group a lot of people don't like.
Overall I think the Sabres underestimate the number of LGBT fans in Buffalo.  Parts of Buffalo are renowned for their LGBT culture.  A large contingent of those attending the blogger summits have been LGBT.  The San Jose Sharks have hosted at least one LGBT-oriented night, so such outreach can be done in the NHL.

Some think that the good that the Salvation Army does far outstrips any negativity, that no organization can justify breaking ties with them over their treatment of a minority.  The Rochester Institute of Technology did.  What's the Sabres excuse?

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