Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw could face discipline for a tantrum thrown during the third period of Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, which included allegedly using a homophobic slur.
Shaw took a penalty late in the third that helped the Blues move to a commanding 3-1 series lead. After the penalty was assessed Shaw appears to flip two middle fingers at the ref. Upon entering the penalty box he allegedly shouts a homophobic slur at the referee (it looks pretty clear to even a novice lip reader, but it was no heard on the broadcast), which may be the second time he did that during the incident.
“Emotions were high. I don’t know what I said,” Shaw said. “Obviously, I was upset with the call. It was late in the game like that. I wasn’t happy with the call.”
Here’s a look at what went down.
The incident comes just a couple weeks after Chicago partnered with the You Can Play Project. The organization, founded by Director of the Department of Player Safety Patrick Burke, seeks to create a welcoming space that ensure “the safety and inclusion of all in sports — including LGBT athletes, coaches and fans.”
You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.
You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.
Chicago goaltender Scott Darling appeared in a video for the Project through the partnership saying, “We believe athletes should be judged by their character, work ethic, and talent, not their sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
The You Can Play Project had an immediate response to Shaw’s alleged words.
We are aware of tonight's incident and will be reaching out to the NHL immediately to assist in an appropriate response.
— You Can Play (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 20, 2016
The real importance of taking a stand is driven home by Chicago Tribune Blackhawks beat writer Chris Hine. He wrote a column coming out back in March.
As some of you may know, I'm a gay sportswriter — who covers the #Blackhawks. I like Andrew Shaw and have a good relationship with him …
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
But what he said tonight was inexcusable and is one of the reasons why gay athletes everywhere stay closeted and often live lives of torment
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
Similar incidents in the NBA have resulted in suspension when Rajon Rondo used a homophobic slur toward referee Bill Kennedy, who later revealed that he is gay. They also fined Kobe Bryant in 2011 for using a homophobic slur.
Meanwhile a 2011 incident with Wayne Simmonds didn’t result in anything after the NHL determined that there wasn’t substantial evidence that a homophobic slur was used. Colin Campbell said of the league’s decision to do nothing there:
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. Specifically, Flyers Player Wayne Simmonds has expressly denied using the homophobic slur he is alleged to have said.
The NHL has talked a big game on inclusivity through partnership with the You Can Play Project, the Hurricanes taking a moderate stance on a new discriminatory law in North Carolina, talks with Melissa Geschwind about how the league handles domestic violence, bringing the NWHL and CWHL into the Winter Classic and other baby steps toward inclusivity that are partially taken because the league is slowly realizing that hockey fans are a diverse group and should be welcomed to the game.
This makes it a very different time than when the Simmonds incident took place.
NHL has alerted the Blackhawks that they're investigating Shaw comments. Wouldn't expect comment from NHL until that is complete.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) April 20, 2016
A suspension wouldn’t be without precedent, even though the Simmonds incident didn’t develop into anything. Krys Barch was given a one-game suspension in 2012 for a racist joke directed at P.K. Subban, and James Wisniewski was given two games for an obscene gesture directed at Sean Avery.
With regard to flipping off the officials, there’s also some recent precedent of discipline for disrespectful gestures on the ice. Both Josh Manson and Nazem Kadri were suspended this season for making a throat slash gesture at another player.
Beyond the homophobic slur, giving the bird to the refs might not sit well with the Officials Association, adding another layer to the situation for Shaw.
The NHL should continue to strive toward bringing all people who love the game together. They have an opportunity to show that hockey is for everyone, and that they aren’t going to turn people away at the door by standing behind something Shaw said in the heat of the moment. They need not throw the book at Shaw, but taking a stance is meaningful.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 4, 2016