NHL Anaheim Ducks Are Being Investigated For Racial Bias

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NHL Anaheim Ducks Are Being Investigated For Racial Bias
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

As hard as it is to believe in 2011, anti-Semitic charges have been leveled at the NHL Anaheim Ducks organization by former prospect Jason Bailey, who played college hockey at Michigan.

ESPN.com, NHL Fanhouse and Sports Illustrated have all reported on the allegations.  ESPN also reported on an NHL investigation citing anonymous sources.

Bailey, who is Jewish, alleges he was a victim of numerous anti-Semitic attacks by coaches of the team's farm club, according to a lawsuit filed in California.  

According to sources, Bailey, 23, claims that while he was a member of the Bakersfield (Calif.) Condors of the ECHL from 2007 through 2009, he was targeted because of his Jewish faith.

He mentions his head coach Marty Raymond (a French Canadian) and then-assistant coach Mark Pederson as the main protagonist.

The lawsuit claims Raymond said Jews "only care about money and who's who," and he didn't want his son, whose mother is Jewish, "to be raised Jewish or to wear a Yarmulke (a Jewish ceremonial skull cap)."

After Bailey sent a friend request to Pederson on Facebook, Pederson allegedly replied, "Oh, I got a friend request from a dirty Jew." When the team was putting money together for a party, the lawsuit claims Pederson said, "Well, I don't know if we can trust him with the money. He's Jewish."

"It doesn't shock me this occurred," Keith Fink, Bailey's well-respected employment lawyer based in Los Angeles, told FanHouse. "What shocks me is the callous indifference that management and ownership showed when confronted with this situation. They knew what the coaches did was wrong, but they failed to stand up and do the right thing for Bailey and his family. They wouldn’t skate him. They wouldn’t play him.”

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Schneider was a effective NHL defenseman with offensive skill

The Ducks had no comment on the lawsuit.

According to the Fanhouse report, Bailey first voiced his concerns to the team's coaching staff, management and team owner Jonathan Fleisig.  The lawsuit claims that this resulted in his (Bailey’s) benching and a threat to send him to a lower league.

That move motivated Bailey to seek out David McNab, the Ducks' senior vice president of hockey operations.

Both coaches were suspended briefly in February 2009. The team said Raymond (suspension for one week) and Pederson (two weeks) were suspended for violating team policy and called it an internal matter.

The main reason behind the lawsuit, according to the plaintiff, was the Ducks lack of action overall and the fact that Coach Raymond's contract with the Condors was extended despite the complaints.

"The kid is not looking for money," Attorney Fink said. "What upside does this have? He plays in a fish bowl. There is only one major professional ice hockey league, so there's no incentive for him to come forward. This is not going to advance his career. It takes a strong, confident person (to pursue this type of case)."

Interestingly, there have only been a handful of Jewish players in the NHL.

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Mike Cammalleri has been a effective player for the Canadiens

Three notables were Larry Zeidel, Mathieu Schneider and Mike Cammalleri also notable were that all three were born in the month of June.

Zeidel, who played in the AHL for nine seasons, was called the “Rock.”  He played in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. He won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings and was known for promoting himself to NHL teams without the use of a agent.

Rumors persist that Zeidel handled anti-Semitic taunts with fearsome actions on the ice.

Schneider was a standout offensive defenseman playing for several NHL clubs including the Montreal Canadiens where he won a Stanley Cup. He also was selected to play in the NHL All-Star in 2003. He was born in New York and played junior hockey in Canada with the Cornwall Royals. The Montreal Canadiens drafted him at 18 years old. Schneider was unique having been born in the U.S and electing to play junior hockey in Canada. 

When interviewed, Mathieu Schneider’s father Sam, his first hockey coach, cited examples of bias early in his own life but did not recall any specific acts concerning his son’s tenure in the NHL. The son of a immigrant, Sam Schneider ran an extremely successful hockey school that used training techniques that USA Hockey is now starting to adopt.

Mathieu was also a member of the selection committee that picked the new NHLPA President. 

NHL Dad and coach Sam Schneider

Mike Cammalleri was drafted by the LA Kings in the second round (49th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After a brief stint in the big leagues he spent some development time with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs. He was awarded the Willie Marshall Award for leading the league in goals, scoring 46.

According to Wikipedia, he was a member of the 2007 Canadian IIHF World Championship team that won gold in a 4–2 win against Finland in Moscow. Cammalleri played with the Kings and currently the Montreal Canadiens. Cammalleri has never reported any incidents of insensitivity or bias. He has played a significant amount of time in the NHL, but that does not mean he has not experienced issues or taunting which is a notable intimidation tactic in the NHL.

The blogosphere produced several comments discussing this issue including frustration at the current rules governing “what is discrimination?” One blogger wrote: Some search for the littlest thing to claim “racial harassment.” I’ve seen a couple of cases tried on the work place over the past 20 plus years and it’s just as offensive as actually harassment.”

Another acknowledged that incidents such as Bailey encountered still occur, but wondered if the lawsuit was an attempt to extract money from the Ducks organization.

In a letter said to be dated March 2, 2009, Pederson and Raymond apologized at the time of suspension.

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"It was not my intention to offend you. The intent was to have a jovial moment. Please understand that prior to this incident, I was not trained to handle such a sensitive matter as a coach. As a French-Canadian, I too have come face-to-face with bigotry and understand how such remarks can negatively affect lives. I can certainly relate to you as I have repeatedly been called 'frog' through my playing and coaching career. This has affected me on and off the ice. Now that I understand that you were offended, I will no longer engage in this type of behavior nor condone it. I look forward to moving on and making a run for the playoffs as a team."

The letters, according to the lawsuit, claimed that both coaches "downplayed the entire affair as a joke."

It is unclear when Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli became aware of the allegations.

According to the Ducks Media Guide, the Samuelis are well-known philanthropists who have donated over $200 million to the areas of “education, health, social services, the performing arts and Jewish culture.”

Henry Samueli also told the Register in 2006 that both his parents are Holocaust survivors.

“My father (Aron) was in a concentration camp, and my mother (Sala) was in hiding during the whole war,” Samueli  told the LA newspaper.

Sadly, no one wins when insensitivity and bias show themselves. The secret in effective relationships has always been feel and touch rather than joviality, whose antonym is misery. It is not always easy to achieve a balance, but that does not mean anyone should give up.

After all, we are in the 21st century.

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