The National Hockey League said it won’t discipline Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds for hurling a homophobic slur because Simmonds said he can’t remember what he said, and because none of the referees on the ice could verify what was said.
The incident, during Monday night’s pre-season exhibition game between the Flyers and New York Rangers, was caught on tape, and most viewers assert it confirms Simmonds shouted “fucking faggot” at Rangers winger Sean Avery following a scuffle between the two.
But according to the NHL, “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,” said NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell Campbell.
GLAAD — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — however, said the video shows Simmonds “clearly shouting an anti-gay slur at Avery” and called the NHL’s response “horrendous:”
What if a goalie said he “couldn’t remember” whether the puck had slipped past him and crossed the plane of the net — and if none of the referees had a clear view of the shot? What would the NHL do? Would they simply take the goalie’s word for it? Or would they look at the videotape to see what happened? We’re asking the NHL to treat this incident the same way.
In a post-game interview, Avery said he heard Simmonds use the slur. Simmonds did not deny the accusation, but said he couldn’t remember everything he yelled — he later revised his statement to say he explicitly did not use a gay slur.
By now, hockey players and athletes of all ages across this country are aware of what transpired during Monday night’s game. They’re aware that a professional athlete used a defamatory slur. They’ve now seen evidence that — despite big talk about how homophobic attitudes “will not be tolerated” — when it comes down to it, authorities will be more than willing to turn a blind eye.
Using this slur was a bad example for Simmonds to set — and refusing to take responsibility for it is a horrendous example for the NHL to set.
Campbell said the league reserves the right to amend its decision if any new evidence becomes available.
Avery is an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community, and has been criticized for his support of marriage equality.