Saturday, May 20, 2017

Old Habits Die Hard

There was a time when a homophobic slur was no big think in sports.  It was part of the language used by players in their trash talk.  If one player uttered such a word, the other player would probably scream it back, and after more jawing, the players would move along.
Even if said words were caught on camera, chances are, nothing would happen to them.
No suspension, no fine, no apologizes either.

Today, times are very different, and that is a good thing.  Society, for the most part, have become more accepting of people of different backgrounds, religions, colour, and their sexual preferences.  As long as people are good, why does it matter if they are different?

It would seem, though, that is sports, athletes are somewhat slow to change.  Anaheim Ducks captain, Ryan Getzlaf, has been fined $10,000 (the maximum allowed) by the NHL for uttering a homophobic slur during game 4, which was caught on camera, though there was no audio.

Just a couple of days ago, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, Kevin Pillar, was suspended for 2 games by the team for screaming a homophobic slur at an opposing pitcher.  He was immediately contrite following the game and issued an apology.

Andrew Shaw, while still with the Chicago Blackhawks was suspended for a game and fined $5000 for directing a homophobic slur towards an official.  It is no surprise that the NHL did not suspend Getzlaf, as this is the way the league operates.

I've joked in the past that the league spins a wheel with various suspensions, fines, and even nothing on it, to determine what punishment a player will receive.  That would explain  of the head scratching decisions the league has made in the past.  If it was still the regular season or if Getzlaf wasn't one of the top players on the Ducks, it would not be surprising if he would have received the same penalty that Shaw received last year.  If the league wanted to send a message, they would have suspended Getzlaf for a game.  Make the punishment harsh so that players think twice and can't use the "in the heat of the moment" argument.

To the NHL's credit, they have partnered with You Can Play since 2012.  The group's goal is to eradicate homophobia in sports.  Teams have taken steps in the last few years to be more inclusion, participating in pride parades.

There has never been a NHL player, past or present, who has come out as gay.  There have few in sports in general, but the feeling of acceptance of a gay teammate has risen in most sports, at least that is what some have said.

So why then in the year 2017, athletes are still using homophobic slurs?

Well, because for so many years it was normal to use a homophobic slur as part of trash talk.  Even for somebody like Getzlaf, who is 32, it was considered no big deal.  I don't think Getzlaf is homophobic or a bad person at all, though I don't know him personally, so I couldn't be 100% about that.

For future generation of players, using homophobic slurs, or even calling male athletes 'girls' or other female terms which is supposed to be an insult, should become non-existent as the times change.

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