The thing that organizations like the Philadelphia Flyers, or the NHL, or the You Can Play Project, is that the stories they hope will just go away never do in the timeframe they’re counting on. They continue to fester, and everyone’s inaction on it only prolongs this. The Flyers and their coach, John Tortorella, could have made this less of a story. Then the NHL could have. YCP could have made a real stink and turned it around. All of them passed and we’re still left with the detritus. Whether it’s Tortorella doubling down, Gary Bettman’s statement, or this:
(Also, we should mention the Everest-like task it is to look like the biggest asshat on a team that has Tony DeAngelo on it).
The latter might still have happened, but it has a different tone if the Flyers and their coach had made it clear that their player crossed what they value and what they stand for instead of just pushing them out as punchlines. Same goes for the league. Or maybe it would have helped if the organization it partners with stood for more than just hanging out with the league or making heterosexuals feel better.
You Can Play has been the NHL’s partner for LGBTQ+ issues for a while now, and they’re the ones who sponsor the Pride nights at NHL arenas. And yet every time there’s a real controversy, something they can really put their feet down on, someone shows up to just say they’re disappointed. That’s nice, we all are, but what’s next? YCP never threatens to pull their name from the league or even demand any better.
Sure, education is part of the process, except offering that to Provorov isn’t going to do much when he’s using religion as a shield. And if the goal is a more welcoming environment for LBGTQ+ players and fans, do the fans really feel better after being assured of some behind-closed-doors work training? It’s still gone unasked what effect Tortorella’s actions and words have had on LGTBQ+ fans of the Flyers. How many jerseys did he inadvertently help sell?
This has been YCP’s general action for their entire partnership. When Ryan Getzlaf was caught using a gay slur on ice, they were disappointed. Same when Andrew Shaw did the same. They even made Shaw a YCP ambassador the next year. And to be fair to Shaw, he was determined to be one to prove his contrition and desire to help. But was that about helping the community or was it about the rehabilitation of Shaw’s image, from YCP’s point of view? Shaw didn’t need YCP’s sanctioning to do the work he wanted to, to turn around his mistake.
Contrast that with the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which refused to partner with the NHL because it wouldn’t live up to what the HDA wanted it to do. YCP couldn’t even bring itself to make a definitive statement about bathroom bills or attacks on marriage equality. For a more comprehensive breakdown of all of YCP’s shortcomings in the past, this from the Victory Press is a good starter.
YCP has their nights and passes out their stickers and yet when a real challenge like this pops up, they merely paw at it. Where’s the demanding action from the league? Or the Flyers? Or would that jeopardize the cozy relationship?
Maybe 10 years ago an organization could appeal to sense and decency. Maybe there was a time when Provorov jerseys flying off the shelves would have been something we laughed at. But this is a toxic era now, and a confrontational one. It has to be more than disappointment.
That’s admittedly far too glib for Vince McMahon, who yesterday was revealed to have settled a lawsuit over his accused rape of Rita Chatterton, a ref who worked for the company in the 80s. McMahon’s lawyer was only too happy to tell everyone this was not an admission of guilt, but to get the case to die down.
“Mr. McMahon denies and always has denied raping Ms. Chatterton. And he settled the case solely to avoid the cost of litigation,” said Jerry McDevitt, a lawyer for Mr. McMahon.
This follows the tens of millions that McMahon has shelled out before his forced retirement to other women he was alleged to have harassed, assaulted, or carried on improper relationships with.
It is disheartening, to put it lightly, that McMahon will get away with signing a check he won’t notice, especially when he receives a much larger check when whoever is going to purchase WWE — AEW? Saudi Arabia? — does so. It’s a wonder which possible buyer will feel comfortable dealing with McMahon, and to be seen enriching him this publicly. McMahon was always going to get the lion’s share of the lucre, but it would have been different perception-wise if he was still outside the offices. Maybe not by much, but it’s something. Same goes for the media rights deal that might come first. And it’ll get interesting if McMahon tries to play rival bidders off each other to keep himself in charge. Which he just might do.
Still, WWE is a proven moneymaker, and with live television, which is truly scarce these days. It’s not like any of these networks or streaming services will be able to resist the call. The world knows what McMahon is now, but does someone like him care when the bank balance is too large to fit on a screen?