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Hockey player Simmonds makes anti-gay comment, National Hockey League refuses to act
From HRC, GLAAD and Egale Canada news releases, including NHL's full statement
2011-09-29

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Egale Calls on NHL to Stand Firmly Against Anti-Gay Discrimination

TORONTO - Sept. 29, 2011 - Egale Canada, Canada's national lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans ( LGBT ) human rights organization, is extremely disturbed by the National Hockey League's ( NHL ) failure to take action against homophobia within the game. There can be no question that Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds hurled a hateful, anti-gay slur during a pre-season game on Monday night, and the NHL must take responsibility and stand with other major league sports in their active and explicit opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Incidents of anti-gay hate echo across all of society, causing lasting harm in the local rink, the classroom, and at home. "It's time for one of Canada's favourite pastimes to get with the times and directly address the issue of anti-gay discrimination on and off the ice," said Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale Canada. "There are many LGBT youth and athletes who remain hesitant to live openly, fearful of rejection by their coaches and peers. The NHL has shamefully let them down."

Egale urges the NHL to reconsider its response and clearly demonstrate that homophobic language is never acceptable and will not be tolerated.

Together with the United States-based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ( GLAAD ) , Egale is encouraging supporters to take action through an online tool that calls on the NHL to take responsibility for the anti-gay actions of Wayne Simmonds. That tool is available here: www.glaad.org/tellnhl.

Egale Canada is Canada's LGBT human rights organization: advancing equality, diversity, education, and justice.

About GLAAD: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ( GLAAD ) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality. For more information, visit www.glaad.org .

Human Rights Campaign statement Statement, 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28, 2011: NHL's Continued Silence on Wayne Simmonds' Anti-Gay Slur is Unacceptable

WASHINGTON — The National Hockey League ( NHL ) has yet to respond to growing calls from the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy organizations to revisit the incident between Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds and New York Rangers winger Sean Avery in which Simmonds appears to have shouted "f*cking f*ggot" at Avery during an altercation. HRC is calling on the NHL to immediately re-open its investigation, pay close attention to the footage of Simmonds shouting at Avery, and take appropriate action that makes it clear homophobia has no place in hockey.

Sean Avery is a straight ally and strong supporter of marriage equality. Earlier this year, Avery participated in HRC's New Yorker's for Marriage Equality video campaign.

"Sean Avery is an example of a responsible professional athlete who uses his platform to advance equality. The NBA's action following similar incidents of homophobia on the basketball court is another good example," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "In comparison, the NHL's reluctance to engage in tackling homophobia is alarming and absolutely the wrong thing to do. The NHL must act immediately to send a strong message that this type of homophobia has no place on the ice."

Following Monday night's game, Simmonds couldn't remember what he said. However, the next day, his memory had cleared considerably — and Simmonds has since been insistent in denying that he ever used the offensive slur.

The NHL issued a statement yesterday following a brief look into the matter. In the statement, a league spokesperson said NHL players were held to "higher standards with respect to their conduct both on and off the ice" and that while "the emotion involved in certain on-ice confrontations may lead to the use of highly charged and sometimes offensive language and commentary, certain lines cannot be crossed."

The clock is ticking, and equality supporters across the nation are waiting for the NHL to right this wrong.

The league must immediately take appropriate action to hold Wayne Simmonds accountable for his conduct. The league has a responsibility to send a clear message that these types of anti-gay slurs can have serious consequences.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Human Rights Campaign statement, 11:30 a.m., Sept. 28, 2011:

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign is calling on the National Hockey League ( NHL ) to immediately conduct a more thorough investigation and take appropriate action following claims that Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds called New York Rangers winger and equality supporter Sean Avery a "f-cking f-ggot" during a preseason game Monday night. The exchange was caught on video. Simmonds originally did not deny hurling the slur at Avery, but later changed his tune when the NHL began looking into the incident. Sean Avery is a staunch supporter of LGBT equality and recently participated in HRC's successful New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.

"Homophobia of any kind is unacceptable, particularly when it occurs in an arena as public as a televised sporting event," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Professional athletes must be mindful of the message they send — we've seen this in action through the examples of equality supporters like Sean Avery, Steve Nash, Michael Strahan, Steve Tisch and Brendon Ayanbadejo. And we've seen athletes who have exercised poor judgment take ownership for their behavior and apologize. Wayne Simmonds must now take responsibility for his words, and the NHL must take appropriate action to send a message that this type of behavior won't be tolerated."

Immediately following Monday night's game, Simmonds didn't directly deny hurling the slur at Avery, saying "I don't recall everything that I did say to him, but he said to me some things I didn't like and maybe I said some things that he didn't like. I can't recall every single word I said." At a hearing Tuesday, however, Simmonds walked back his earlier comments and expressly denied any wrongdoing.

Yesterday, the NHL released a statement in which they announced they would not be pursuing additional action against Simmonds at this time: "It also is important to emphasize that the National Hockey League holds, and will continue to hold, our Players [ sic ] to higher standards with respect to their conduct both on and off the ice. While we recognize that the emotion involved in certain on-ice confrontations may lead to the use of highly charged and sometimes offensive language and commentary, certain lines cannot be crossed."

The NHL has a responsibility to follow the example set by the National Basketball Association following similar incidents of homophobia on the court. The NHL's statement explicitly speaks to holding hockey players to a higher standard of conduct. The NHL should take appropriate action to match their rhetoric and hold Wayne Simmonds accountable for his conduct — which he himself did not immediately deny. Additionally, the NHL and the Philadelphia Flyers should take steps to educate both their players and fans about the dangers of homophobia and the very real dangers associated with these types of slurs.

GLAAD: National Hockey League Refuses to Take Action After Player Shouts Anti-Gay Slur; GLAAD and Community Call on the NHL to Take Responsibility and Follow MLB and NBA Examples

New York, NY, September 28, 2011 — The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ( GLAAD ) , the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today called on the National Hockey League ( NHL ) to take action after Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers was shown on video clearly shouting an anti-gay slur during a pre-season game on Monday night.

GLAAD also launched an online action for community members and allies to contact the NHL. For more information: www.glaad.org/tellnhl. The GLAAD online action reads, "hearing a player shout 'f**got' during a game can perpetuate a climate of intolerance that pervades so many schools and universities today."

"It is abundantly clear from video footage that an instance of anti-gay bias occurred,"said Mike Thompson, Acting President of GLAAD. "League officials should revisit this matter and take action immediately. The NHL is severely out of touch at a time when leagues including the MLB and the NBA are taking stands against anti-gay bullying and steps to ensure their sports are welcoming to all players, coaches and fans."

Yesterday, the NHL released a statement saying, "commentary directed at the race or ethnicity of other participants in the game ( or even non-participants ) , or that is otherwise socially or morally inappropriate or potentially hurtful -- including as it may relate to sexual orientation -- is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated…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. Additionally, none of the on-ice officials close to the altercation in question heard any inappropriate slurs uttered by either of the primary antagonists. In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night's events."

The NHL's full statement, which notes they are open to revisiting the matter, is below.

Previously, the NBA responsibly fined both Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah earlier this year after both were caught on camera using this same slur during games. The MLB responsibly suspended Roger McDowell after he was accused of making anti-gay comments toward fans in San Francisco. As a result, both leagues set important examples for local and school-level sports teams that the NHL should also follow.

"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. This is the National Hockey League's policy and it will remain so going forward.

"It also is important to emphasize that the National Hockey League holds, and will continue to hold, our Players to higher standards with respect to their conduct both on and off the ice. While we recognize that the emotion involved in certain on-ice confrontations may lead to the use

of highly charged and sometimes offensive language and commentary, certain lines cannot be crossed. Specifically, we have for many years emphasized to our Clubs and Players that commentary directed at the race or ethnicity of other participants in the game ( or even non-participants ) , or that is otherwise socially or morally inappropriate or potentially hurtful -- including as it may relate to sexual orientation -- is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

"With that as background, we have looked into the allegations relating to the possible use of a homophobic slur by a Flyers player in the Rangers/Flyers preseason game last night in Philadelphia. 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. Additionally, none of the on-ice officials close to the altercation in question heard any inappropriate slurs uttered by either of the primary antagonists. In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night's events. To the extent we become aware of additional information conclusively establishing that an inappropriate slur was invoked, we are reserving the option to revisit the matter."


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