The NHL has made their decision regarding the homophobic slur that the Philadelphia Flyer Wayne Simmonds allegedly shouted at the Rangers' Sean Avery during Monday’s preseason game. The league will not punish Simmonds due to the fact that they did not have conclusive evidence against Simmonds.
Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, had the following to say in a statement released Tuesday:
Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom. [...]
In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night's events.
This is a fair ruling. If they cannot confirm the alleged slur was used, then they cannot convict a man merely on hearsay and another man's accusations.
Moving on from the ruling, what I have found to be ridiculous in all of this is how quickly many people dismissed the slur as “part of the game” or “just words"—not to mention the fact that so many were quick to imply that since the notorious agitator Avery was involved, we should just forget about it. These arguments are stunningly shortsighted.
The slur that was allegedly used is not part of the game; it’s not just a word, it’s a word meant to demean, to put down and to belittle. You can argue that I am wrong on this, but you would really not have any ground to stand on.
Is a racial slur just a word? No, so why is a homophobic slur so readily dismissed as just a word? Why are so many so ready just to shrug off homophobia and homophobic words?
Is Sean Avery super-pest No. 1 in the league? Yes he is, and he has done some questionable things and he has been appropriately punished (maybe not all, but at least some).
The fact remains that he did not bring up the incident. The press asked him a question and he answered it. To somehow shift the focus on to Avery for his past actions is silly and avoiding the larger issue.
During his ruling, Campbell offered the following:
All players, coaches and officials in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free from racially or sexually-based innuendo or derision.
Campbell’s statement is commendable, but only if the league follows through when a provable offense comes to the forefront.
Attitudes on race took a long while to change, but thankfully, they did and now racially-charged language causes rightful outrage.
It’s time society moves to the point where other words meant to demean people for, among other things, religion or sexual preference are also unacceptable in any setting.