As Game Four of the Blackhawks’ playoff series was winding down late in the third period, tensions were boiling and emotions were fuming. With a palpable frustration immersing the Blackhawks, Andrew Shaw was assessed a penalty, further adding to the disappointment of the night. Shaw’s temperament broke as he raised both middle fingers at the official in question and spit out an entirely inappropriate tirade, during which he made ill-advised use of an offensive homophobic slur.
The NHL has good standing with the homosexual community and their reaction proves it. Shaw was fined $5,000 and suspended for Game Five, a potentially tragic ending to the season for the Blackhawks. With their back on the wall, Chicago cannot afford any mistakes, and especially cannot afford a key forward being absent when they need him most.
Shaw did apologize with sincerity, however, at O’Hare airport before the team headed to St. Louis to face the Blues without him. He lamented “I want to apologize to the gay and lesbian community. That’s not the type of guy I am.” Initially, Shaw claimed he was unaware of what had been said while he was in the penalty box. Amidst the chaos of emotion, he was unaware of what he was actually yelling, and the implications of that which he was yelling.
Yet, on reviewing the footage following the incident, it was time to face the facts. Shaw accepted full responsibility for his actions. Fortunately, it seems that Game Four’s incident will shine some light onto a generally neglected shadow of the NHL, homophobic culture. While I’m not saying this is necessarily a pervasive issue, it is certainly present to a degree and deserves to be acknowledged.
Up until now, it has largely and interestingly enough slipped under the radar. Now, it is rapidly being brought to the forefront of the collective public conscience. Cyd Zeigler, a founder of Outsports.com, said that while the NHL does have a proven record of supporting the LGBT communities, it could further eradicate homophobic culture. For one, it could facilitate players’ coming out of the closet.
While data is limited, it is known that homophobic slurs are exponentially reduced once it is in the open that there are homosexual men in earshot. Thus, if more players made their sexual orientation more exposed, the culture of homophobia would be largely diminished. However, it should be noted that by no means do I think it my business or the public’s business what these players do in their private lives. I am merely articulating the idea that were there more known homosexuals in the NHL, their very presence itself would do much to abolish homophobic sentiment.
Regardless, while the Blackhawks are facing an uphill battle in the upcoming series, the NHL is exploring uncharted waters. If this event does indeed bring more public awareness to homophobia in the NHL, it will be interesting to see how the hockey world handles it. More than that, it will be interesting to see if the NFL, the NBA, and other mainstream American sports associations follow suit in exposing and abolishing anti-LGBT sentiment. I suppose only time will tell.
For now, let’s go Hawks!