Well, this is a hell of a statement. The NHL has concluded its investigation into sexual assault claims against Blackhawks star Patrick Kane made in August, and the league’s release doesn’t merely say that Kane won’t be disciplined. It goes even further than law enforcement, which declined to prosecute, and declares the allegations made by Kane’s accuser “unfounded.”
I’m genuinely shocked by the wording of this statement. The case against Kane had its bizarre moments and his accuser stopped cooperating with investigators, so clearing Kane was the only thing for the league to do. But what’s to be gained from saying anything beyond a boilerplate “we have determined no action will be taken?” After all, epistemologically, how the hell would the NHL even know what happened? Why should it pretend to be able to determine what happened? Sports leagues are not cops and they are not courts.
(The Erie County D.A. said the case was “rife with reasonable doubt” and that the evidence “does not sufficiently substantiate the...allegation”—both strong statements, but well short of declaring it “unfounded.”)
The NHL has a strong interest in rehabilitating Kane’s image. He’s the most famous American player, he’s having an MVP season, his team should go deep into the playoffs again, and it’s important for the league to once again be able to present Kane as the face of the league. It is probably no coincidence that this statement comes the same week that Kane gets a Sports Illustrated cover story. This release is an unequivocal statement that the NHL backs Kane, and thinks its fans should too.