The Chicago Blackhawks are a tire fire right now, and that’s saying something… because they’re in the same conference as the Los Angeles Kings.
Literally, they’ve screwed up faster than the Kings did. That takes a considerable bit of effort.
Basically, there is no way to drop this into a concise, neat, 50-word explanation, but here’s the short of it: the Chicago Blackhawks have decided, despite an ongoing investigation of team winger Patrick Kane for allegations of rape this summer, that the 26 year old winger would not only not be suspended to start training camp — they’d bust him out at a press conference at the University of Notre Dame today, as well.
That’s… that’s a tire fire.
I’m not going to get into whether we should automatically assume that Kane is guilty, because that’s another mess entirely. Is it true that the percentage of women who lie about rape is significantly lower than those who don’t, no matter which statistic you use? Yes. Do we also live in a country where, in theory, you should be innocent until proven guilty? Yes. Is there a problem with the justice system and the ability of people like Slava Voynov, through case pleas, to get their sentences reduced in admissions of guilt (aka ‘no contest’ pleas)? Yep. Is there also a tendency in our society to demonize those we’re *sure* deserve it, even though that slowly perpetuates a culture that both A) makes it easier for bad people to get away with pretty awful false allegations and B) pulls from the credence of those who are sexually assaulted, creating a negative divide between the women who are attacked and the rest of society? Once again, yes. All of this is true. That has literally nothing to do with whether the Blackhawks messed up or not.
By opting not to suspend Kane during an investigation, the team isn’t failing to comment on the situation. Quite to the contrary, they are commenting – they’re stating through their actions, loud and clear, that they believe that Kane is innocent. That’s a pretty huge statement for a multimillion dollar organization to make during a sensitive investigation, and probably something that has significant power to influence the ultimate outcome.
I, by no means, am of the opinion that hockey has a ‘dudebro’ culture that makes the sport unsafe and unwelcoming for women. Just yesterday, I coached at a middle school for seven hours – and I was respected both by the students and my co-workers on an equal level to the men I was coaching with. I have engaging, respectful conversations with the media and team personnel within the Arizona Coyotes. Players give me genuine thoughts about their on-ice performances, don’t tell me to get back into the kitchen. I’ve even had kids ask to take pictures with me and the other development coaches; they don’t even question that I’m a woman and I’m in the picture with ‘their heros’, too. There’s still plenty of work to be done to eliminate the biases in hockey, but I also see plenty of promise and positive behaviour in the community that suggests progress will be made.
That doesn’t mean, though, that I agree with what the Blackhawks are doing.
The team hasn’t come outright and backed Kane; they’re ‘letting the investigation play out’, and they aren’t suspending him during that process.
Nice try, Chicago. Has he been charged yet? No. Will you probably lose some games without him in your lineup if you suspend him during the investigation? Yes, although you seemed to do just fine without him last spring during his collarbone injury.
Does that mean that suspending is the wrong thing to do and totally admits guilt, though? Give me a break.
We have no way of knowing whether the Los Angeles Kings would have reacted in the same way as the Blackhawks during the Voynov investigation had he not been immediately arrested, and the league-wide suspension he received is different from what the Blackhawks have done here. These are two different situations, and it’s hard to necessarily compare them on equal footing. That being said, though, the Blackhawks would have been prudent to suspend Kane during his investigation; it’s not saying he’s guilty, it’s just staying out of it. By letting him play, Chicago, you’re doing the opposite.
Update: the CBA has basically summed up what I just said above, but this is essentially the basis of *everything* I’m trying to get at.
Per the collecting bargaining agreement, NHL can suspend anyone under investigation if by playing they are in any way harming rep of league
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) September 17, 2015