This post has been updated to reflect Shaw’s punishment.
The league reached a swift conclusion, suspending the player for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and fining him $5,000. He will also undergo sensitivity training.
Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw suspended one game, fined $5,000. https://t.co/lU14DA5btn pic.twitter.com/P4n1RqmF4W— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 20, 2016
But, really, the league didn’t need to spend too much thought on it. At a time when pro sports leagues are tripping over one another to say how inclusive they are and how welcome an openly gay player would be, this one is a no-brainer. The NHL should be lauded for having the onions to suspend Shaw — now, during the playoffs; not for the start of next season — even though his defending champion team trails the St. Louis Blues 3-1 in their first-round series.
Of everyone angry at NHL officials, here's Andrew Shaw #stlblues #blackhawks pic.twitter.com/JyXUQkFtZv— Greg Jonsson (@Jonssonville) April 20, 2016
A furious Shaw flipped off officials and appeared to mouth the same word that cost Bryant $100,000 in a 2011 fine when Shaw was sent off the ice for interference with about two minutes left in Chicago’s Game 4 loss. He appeared to have shouted, “F— you, you f—ing f—-t.”
“Emotions are high; I don’t know what’s said,” Shaw said after the loss. “I was obviously upset with the call, being late in game. It doesn’t give us a chance to tie it up.”
By early Wednesday afternoon, Shaw had apologized.
“I am sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made last night while in the penalty box,” he said in a statement released by the Blackhawks. “When I got home and saw the video, it was evident that what I did was wrong, no matter the circumstances. I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended. I know my words were hurtful and I will learn from my mistake.”
The team also released a statement in which it said it was “extremely disappointed in Andrew Shaw’s actions. His comments do not reflect what we stand for as an organization. We are proud to have an inclusive and respectful environment and to support various initiatives such as the You Can Play Project and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association. We will use this opportunity to further educate our players and organization moving forward so that we may all learn from it.”
Liz Halloran, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, told The Post in an email: “Andrew Shaw’s use of a bigoted, offensive slur goes beyond poor sportsmanship — it sets a terrible example, especially for young fans who look up to athletes, and undermines real progress being made toward LGBT inclusiveness in the ranks of professional sports. Shaw’s ’emotions were high — I have amnesia’ defense is simply ludicrous.”
You Can Play issued the following statement on Wednesday:
#AndrewShaw #ChicagoBlackhawks #NHL #YouCanPlay pic.twitter.com/ucgRZ6jOB6— You Can Play (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 20, 2016
Chris Hine, a gay reporter who covers the Blackhawks for the Chicago Tribune, tweeted this about the incident:
As some of you may know, I'm a gay sportswriter -- who covers the #Blackhawks. I like Andrew Shaw and have a good relationship with him ...— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
But what he said tonight was inexcusable and is one of the reasons why gay athletes everywhere stay closeted and often live lives of torment— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
He later updated by saying he’d received a personal apology.
Shaw wanted to talk after his media session & he's sincere in his apology and in saying that's not the kind of guy he is. I appreciated that— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
He could've ducked the media and didn't have to talk to me afterward. It took a certain amount of guts to do that.— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
NBA Commissioner David Stern dealt swiftly with Bryant in 2011 and the then-Los Angeles Lakers star quickly owned up to the impact of his words.
“The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say or are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role mode, whatever it is, for them to not take what was said as something — as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease,” Bryant said at the time in a radio interview. “Because that’s something I don’t want to see happen. It’s important for me to talk about that issue because it’s okay to be who you are.”
That’s a message that major U.S. revenue leagues, like the NHL, like the NBA, NFL, MLB and the NCAA have striven to deliver. Patrick Burke, who co-founded You Can Play and works in the NHL’s Player Safety department, said last fall that he thought the pro hockey league was ready to accept an openly gay player and was “surprised” that it hadn’t happened yet. Jason Collins, a former NBA player, came out three years ago and was the first openly gay male player in a major North American pro sport. Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be taken in the NFL draft nearly two years ago. Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay player in NCAA men’s Division I basketball almost two years ago and this spring became the first to play in the NCAA tournament. (Robbie Rogers of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy became the first openly gay male player in a U.S. pro league shortly before Collins made his announcement.)
“We felt that the work the league was doing, the culture that the league had, the way our guys responded not just to our initiative, but to the LGBT community in general, I think we thought for sure by now there would be an out player in the NHL,” Burke told ESPN last fall, adding, “I don’t want to say it’s disappointing because everyone is on their own timeline and when the first guy is ready he’s going to do it.”
Replacing intolerance with inclusiveness has not been swift. Just last February, boxer Manny Pacquiao apologized for saying gay people are “worse than animals,” while in December, the NBA suspended Rajon Rondo for a game after he directed an anti-gay slur at longtime referee Bill Kennedy, who came out after the suspension was announced.
In 2011, the NHL investigated Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers for allegedly using the same slur, but found it could not “substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty” that Simmonds had directed the slur at Sean Avery, then with the New York Rangers. Avery, who had joined New York’s campaign for marriage equality, in 2011, later said he heard Simmonds use the slur. Simmonds denied Avery’s claim.
This week, ESPN is considering what, if any, action to take after baseball analyst Curt Schilling shared a disparaging meme about the controversial bathroom laws and transgendered people on social media. “We are taking this matter very seriously,” the company said in a statement emailed to The Post, “and are in the process of reviewing it.”
You Can Play expressed concern over the message Schilling sent and Shaw’s slur.
We are aware of tonight's incident and will be reaching out to the NHL immediately to assist in an appropriate response.— You Can Play (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 20, 2016
We are disgusted to see @gehrig38 repost an anti-#trans image. Following up with @espn to address these comments.https://t.co/Llxp0f48no— You Can Play (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 19, 2016
Ben Scrivens, a Montreal Canadiens goalie, called for education, not punishment for Shaw. “Getting players to understand why we want that out of our game and having buy-in is the goal,” he tweeted. “We want players to WANT to stop, not be forced.”
But education takes time. Even now, as musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam cancel shows in North Carolina to protest the state’s recent so-called “bathroom law,” the NBA continues to consider whether to take the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte and the NFL, which once moved a Super Bowl out of Arizona because the state did not recognize the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. as a holiday, still plans to hold an owners’ meeting next month in the same city.