September 17, 2015

There's outrage because what happened was outrageous

NHL supports Blackhawks in Patrick Kane training camp decision
There was some thought that the NHL could step in to suspend Kane if the Blackhawks chose to have him at camp, evoking Section 18-A.5 of the CBA that gives Commissioner Gary Bettman the power to suspend a player that creates “a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”

Obviously that’s something that isn’t happening now, but Daly’s “given the circumstances that exist now” signals that if a grand jury indicts Kane, the NHL’s approach could change. It suspended Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings after he was arrested for domestic assault. The Blackhawks also said they would reevaluate if Kane was indicted.
So here's the thing.

Yes, Patrick Kane is innocent until proven guilty...in a court of law. In the court of public opinion, most of the hockey media - and most female hockey fans across the NHL - are pretty sure that he's guilty. Many of the male fans think so, too. Basically, the only people who don't are the people who think women lie about being raped, and people who think of athletes as things.

Now, I'm sure Kane genuinely believes that he's also not guilty - just as this woman who's pressing charges obviously believes that he is.

However, I've seen time and time again over the years on message boards, on social media, and in comments sections that a lot of men don't always know when they've raped a woman. (Or women don't know they've raped a men, for that matter.) What women think of as rape, a lot of men don't - and a lot of that is based upon assumptions rather than facts. Just because you think something is true, doesn't always mean that it is.

The bottom line there is that, unless the other person specifically says yes, you always assume that the answer is going to be no until you ask and are told directly otherwise. And that means don't be putting hands, fingers, or other things in places without the other person saying yes, it's okay. Rape isn't just intercourse, after all.

Despite that, the entire point of the Chicago Blackhawks press conference, I'm sure, was to announce that training camp was going to be business as usual. That there's nothing to see here, and to just move along. That everything was essentially normal for them.

However, it's definitely not normal, and we all know it. All anyone wants to ask about are the allegations. No one cares about the hockey part of things - they want the details about the controversy. And if no one's going to talk about that, then there's no point in even showing up.

So why go through the motions? Why put on this farce of a press conference in the first place? Why try to ignore the elephant in the room?

Regardless of what Brian Burke says at the end of this post, in the real world, companies will suspend (often without pay) or outright fire employees in legal trouble. It happens all the time. The more high profile the case, the more likely the employee will be fired or suspended, in fact.

And that's where part of the fan outrage is coming from. Fans aren't necessarily jumping to conclusions - though, if asked, most have already made up their minds about this case - and they're not convicting Kane. All they want is for the Blackhawks, or the NHL, to treat Kane like they would be treated if they were in his place by their place of employment.

The other part of the fan outrage are the multitudes of female fans who have either been abused, sexually assaulted, or raped - or have had friends or family that have - that are being told by the actions of the Blackhawks and the NHL that women are liars about that sort of thing.

Men would be surprised by how many women have had something shady happen to them. For example, while I have not personally had anything serious thing happen to me, I have had inappropriate things happen. A friend's father put his hand on my hip while he thought I was sleeping, for instance. I was probably 14 years old at the time. But that's as far as it ever went - and I was never comfortable around that guy ever again.

Every single woman that I know or have ever known has at least one story like that. And there are plenty of men in the same boat as well. Some are the extreme ends where family members sexually molested them as children or being brutally raped by someone they knew, and some are at the less horrific end like me. No one likes to talk about it openly, however, because they're afraid of being made fun of, ridiculed, or worse.

So to have a team that you love, or the sport that you love, defend a guy that's been accused of doing something like that to another woman is beyond appalling. There are women - life-long hockey fans - who are questioning whether they want to watch hockey anymore because of this. And still the team and the league refuse to acknowledge that it's even a possibility that it happened.

And not just the them, but this guy's teammates as well. Everyone's blindly standing by Kane, simply because he's a teammate. Now, I get wanting to get along with your teammates, and how guys spend at least seven months in each other's constant company. But there are teammates that don't get along, and they avoid each other whenever possible. That's just how it is. Frankly, it's just better not to discuss it at all if they're put in that awkward situation.

So you have the NHL and the Blackhawks both trying to sweep this under the rug while the fans want transparency. And that's the disconnect; that's the problem. If you're not going to talk about the problem, and you want to carry on like it's business as usual, then don't call a press conference. It's really just that simple.

Because, obviously, it isn't business as usual if you're calling a press conference about something you refuse to discuss.

September 11, 2015

Doesn't matter who said it, but here's who said it

League moving to educate players, curb off-ice issues

I'm in a particularly blunt sort of mood, so I'm not going to sugar-coat any of this. Most of the morning on Twitter, people have been talking about this article. The first and last quotes in it are why.

The first:
"I think as players we're all aware of it," superstar center Sidney Crosby told ESPN.com this week at the Player Tour event. "The league and Players' Association do a good job of informing us and making us well-aware of certain situations and consequences, things like that. I think it's something that everyone, whether you're a professional hockey player or a professional athlete, in general everyone is trying to educate each other in terms of situations you could be put in and making the right decisions. ..."
And the last:
"You don't like the negative image on the league," said Team USA Olympian Justin Faulk, of the Carolina Hurricanes. "But it is a little bit of a reminder that you need to be careful with everything you do. You don't want to jeopardize something in your life, let alone someone else's. You don't want to hurt your team, the league, or have an affect on someone else's life that can be bad."
Anyone care to take a stab at why one of these is good while the other is bad? No? Maybe they look the same to you? Because to many other people, they look like total ends of the spectrum - one end being how most people think, and the other being completely out of touch with most people's reality.

The difference comes down to this: "in terms of situations you could be put in" versus "or have an affect on someone else's life".

Crosby is the out of touch one here. He obviously believes that things just happen to him - that he's a spectator who has no control over anything that he's around. He gets "put into situations", rather than puts himself into situations. It's extremely passive wording, and it tells you a lot about how he views the world.

He doesn't see himself as a part of the world, so nothing is ever his fault. His own actions have no meaning, as he apparently believes that they don't affect anyone else. He views himself as a victim and takes no responsibility for himself; if bad things happen to him, then it's always someone else's fault. After all, how could it possibly be his fault if he has no control over anything? It's the view a child would take - or someone not very emotionally mature, at least.

Faulk's view is the more common view of people outside of sports - that his actions have consequences and those can hurt others, sometimes severely if he's not careful. He believes that he's at least partly responsible for the bad things that might happen to him. He is not a victim nor emotionally immature, but an adult who knows that what he does impacts himself as well as others around him. His view is one of someone who actively sees himself as a part of the world around him.

The problem is that most of the players in the NHL (as well as professional hockey in other leagues) view life like Crosby does, and not like how Faulk does.

Bad things "just happen" to players; it's not their fault. Even on the ice, you see this victim mentality where, if someone gets hit clean but hard, they think that it's a dirty hit and they were being singled out intentionally to be injured. You almost never hear anyone say, "I was sort of in a bad position when he hit me." Instead it's usually something like, "It was a dirty hit."

So it's no wonder that no one off of the Chicago Blackhawks would say anything bad about Patrick Kane's rape allegations. They supported their teammate because that's what teammates do - but also because they probably don't believe he did anything wrong. But how can a player know how to respect women when players don't even respect each other?

(Incidentally, this Washington Post report suggests that only 35% of rapes that happen are reported, and of those that are reported to the police, only around 7% are false accusations. Therefore, the odds that Kane actually did it are really pretty high. So before doing that classic knee-jerk reaction of "this woman's trying to just get money out of him" rationalization, look up the statistics.

Also, admitting to being raped is a profoundly emotionally painful, intensely shameful, and humiliating experience, and most people who have had that happen to them don't like talking about it in the first place to anyone - which is why most don't report it. So do you really think someone would want to do that in court in front of potentially hundreds of people? Especially in this culture of victim-shaming? And against a high-profile man such as a professional athlete?)

Two things need to happen to help hockey players help themselves, quite frankly.

One, they need to realize that they're a part of the world. They need to know that these situations that they "happen to be put into" are situations that they actually put themselves into. Even if they're just standing there, not saying anything to anyone, they're still a part of the situation. It's their choice, it's their decision, it's their body that they put there.

The Nuremberg Defense - "I was told to do it" - doesn't work in real life, you know. They still have the choice to say "no". They still have the option to walk away. The decision to follow through with something is still theirs, no matter what someone else tells them to do.

The second thing that they need to realize is what respect really is, what it means, and how to respect others. That starts with respecting themselves, and respecting their teammates. Because once they learn how to properly respect themselves and others, chances of them becoming a crime statistic seriously go down. That includes a team's front office and their coaching staff as well, frankly.

Part of the problem as well is that some athletes see women as fans see them - they're things; commodities to use and / or enjoy. So if they don't like being used by others without their express permission, then maybe they ought to not use others without their express permission. Being treated how you want to be treated - and not how you are treated - is almost never a bad rule of thumb.

This isn't hard, but if you're not taught it like most kids are, then it becomes hard. This doesn't start when guys hit the pros. This aspect of hockey culture starts way before then. And maybe they ought to address it when it starts, so that the NHL doesn't have to figure it out after the fact.