New York Ranger hockey player Sean Avery has no doubt grown used to being attacked.
What he may not be used to is the hockey world rushing to his defense.
After Avery taped a message of support for marriage equality in New York the Twitter account of Uptown Sports, a prominent sports agency that reps a dozen NHL players said:
The full series of tweets went as follows:
Very sad to read Sean Avery's misguided support of same-gender "marriage". Legal or not, it will always be wrong.
To clarify. This is not hatred or bigotry towards gays. It is not intolerance in any way shape or form. I believe we are all equal...
Yeah, whatever. Some people are more equal than others. Read the book. Bought the t-shirt, Mr. Orwell. Or should I call you pig?
But I believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. This is my personal viewpoint. I Do not hate anyone.
Ah yes, the sanctity. I didn't see any tweets in your timeline calling out Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich or Britney Spears or Charlie Sheen for bespoiling the "sanctity of marriage." That appears to be a magical power only gay people possess. Funny that.
CBS Sports attributed the tweets to Todd Reynolds, Uptown Sports Vice President and son of the owner. And apparently this rotten apple didn't fall far from the tree. His dear Dad, Uptown Sports President, Don Reynolds told NBC Sports Pro Hockey Talk blog:
“It’s sad. I mean, my personal position is that I do not support gay marriage, and I think it’s wrong, as well. It’s not politically correct to, I guess, give your opinion about a thing like that. It’s politically correct on the other side, for people to say, ‘sure, I support gay marriage.’ But the majority, I think, of Canadians would say that they don’t agree with gay marriage – that man and woman were created to be married, not man and man or man and horse, you know?”
SB Nation, a sports blog opined:
When pro athletes say ignorant and unacceptable things on Twitter, they catch hell at worst and the why-do-we-care-what-athletes-think thing at best.
So it will be interesting to see if any reaction makes its way to this sports agency...
Well, they didn't have to wait in anticipation for long. It did.
NBC reports Todd did a follow-up radio interview that didn't go so hot, he complained about the blowback he's received and suggested he didn't want to be part of the "silent majority." NBC writer Joe Yerden has clearly picked a side on the debate, "the issue of marriage equality and gay rights boils down to one as just basic human decency," and he offers:
"We’re not here to silence someone that has an opinion. Free speech is a beautiful thing to have. That said, when it’s opinion that comes across as archaic, backwards, and founded in abject ignorance to the human condition we’re allowed to sound off on it as we choose to as well."
I think they are very small minded comments. The world has changed, and people need to change also. Everyone in the world has rights, and one of the main rights is to have the ability to love and care for whomever you want, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation.
The legacy of Brendan Burke continues to resonate in this sport, evidenced by this quote from another agent, Andrew Warren:
I absolutely would support any client, friend, or family member who came out. I believe that public support of gay rights in sports will make it easier for those in the world of sports that may want to come out able to do so without apprehension or fear. As a friend of Patrick’s, I supported and respected his brother Brendan for leaving an important mark on this issue and I hope more of us in this field continue to develop an environment that is welcoming to everyone.
Warren followed up on Twitter:
More reactions at Outsports.
It seems the NHL's efforts to address homophobia are more than just set dressing. Good for them.
Some posters yesterday expressed there'd be strife for Avery for his stance. And I didn't doubt they were probably correct and am grateful for Avery taking that on (though it doesn't appear by Avery's history avoiding conflict is a high priority item for him).
But the way I see it is the issue of marriage equality for gays is being discussed in an arena outside the typical gay and progressive choir. Across the sports blogs people are debating, who's right, Avery or Uptown? And in circles where we might presume we have only opposition it comes as a pleasant surprise to see the show of support it's getting. Words like Scott Norton chose, encouraging the NHL to be "an environment that is welcoming to everyone" are hard for civilized people to argue with, it is after all the American way.
We can thank Sean Avery for initiating the conversation.
• Hat tip to David Badash at New Civil Rights Movement blog.