Whatever holiday you’re having, whatever group you’re honoring, you can expect hockey to somehow completely step on a rake before falling off a cliff and into an open sewer.
It’s one thing to include Patrick Kane on your PWHPA 2021 challenge video, and that’s bad enough, but it’s yet another thing to lead off with him. Generally, when talking about providing opportunities and equality for girls and women in a sport or in the world, we like to keep our accused rapists to the back, if we can. I’m sure Bauer would say that he’s the biggest star in the NHL, and his voice lends a weight that no other can. But it’s his level of stardom that always seems to silence what is discussed about him.
It’s just one instance of yet another attempt to cleanse Kane’s reputation and legacy in the week that he plays his 1,000th game. That’s a real benchmark for NHL players, and worth celebrating. It’s semi-rare longevity. And you’ll hear a lot about Kane’s career in the coming days, as well as being labeled the greatest U.S.-born player ever (which he is). It’s here. Or here Or here. We expect coverage of athletes to pick and choose, except we know what they will pick and choose every time. The whole is almost never considered.
The argument will always be, “This isn’t the time.” But no one seems to ever tell you when it is the time. On such a milestone, Kane’s place in the game will be greatly covered and discussed. His impact on the team and city will be as well. And unquestionably, his “impact” includes the rape accusation and other accusations against him earlier in his career. It’s as much as part of what he is as his assist-total. It seems most want to tell a redemption story without ever mentioning what someone like Kane would need redeeming from. Which just makes it white-washing.
The counter to this, and a valid one, is that Kane can’t change the perception of him, or the narrative around him from some, without lending his name and support to things like this as well as other actions. It’s not a scalable mountain, nor should it be, but it’s one that Kane and others like him should attempt to ascend anyway. Again, Kane’s star power has use in this pursuit; that can’t be denied.
We went through this just over a year ago with Kobe Bryant. Some argued his rape case shouldn’t even be a discussion in the aftermath of his death, some pointed to his support and amplifying women’s sports as a counter-balance, instead of just presenting both on their own and leaving them as two separate facets of his life. And Patrick Kane didn’t just horribly and shockingly die. The discussion of Bryant’s rape case a year ago was still muted and often shouted down, but it was there. It’s not even a whisper with Kane. Wouldn’t be hard to pick out the differences, I’m sure.
Still, while Kane should be a voice for the proliferation of women’s hockey because he’s just that big of a star and his voice can carry, using him on International Women’s Day is a bridge too far. Maybe five years is enough for some people to think that the accusations against Kane have been covered by dust and sand, but Bauer isn’t the one to decide that.
Then again, this is Bauer Hockey, who will say all the right things about standing with and for women’s hockey and then sign a partnership with Barstool Sports, which would be the exact antithesis of such a thing. No one said the lights were all that bright over there.