Cam Janssen: Definitely not the first athlete to cause trouble for himself by saying something stupid, probably not the last. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
As you're probably aware, the New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen made some inappropriate and inflammatory statements during an appearance on a satellite radio program on Tuesday. Among them, he disparaged women and threatened violence toward gays. As would be expected in keeping with the standard cycle when this kind of thing occurs, reaction condemning Janssen and his comments has been swift and strong. Janssen has already offered his obviously crafted by the team P.R. department apology. Next, pundits will debate whether or not he should be punished by the team and/or the league and if so, how severely and they'll sit back to see what happens.
There could be benefits beyond getting all worked up and gthe visceral enjoyment we get from expressing outrage, if we're willing to look at this situation from a different perspective though.
It would be easy to jump into that fray, condemning and dismissing Janssen as a misogynist and a homophobe, but at what cost? On one level or another, we as fans enjoy the NHL as a form of entertainment. As Raw Charge Managing Editor Cassie McClellan points out, when the media jumps on a situation like this, it tends to discourage athletes from publicly displaying more personality than an order of dry toast. Probably a more productive tactic for all concerned is to step back and take a look at what can be learned. For instance:
- Sadly, not all hockey players are adorable scamps. As fans, hockey fans take pride in the character of the players in the NHL, and most of the time, that pride is entirely justified. But ultimately, the NHL is a group of human beings. And any time you have a group of human beings, inevitably some of them are going to be some dumb individuals with some dumb ideas.
- Twitter is not the only way for dumb individuals to express their dumb ideas. There has been, and continues to be, much hand-wringing over athletes on Twitter and whether or not that's a good idea. That hand-wringing increases in intensity every time a #DanEllisProblems-style issue pops up. But this happened on a radio show which illustrates that it's not the medium, it's the user. In other words, Twitter doesn't make people say stupid things, stupid makes people say stupid things.
- The You Can Play Project is a good and necessary thing. The initiative founded by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman to establish equality, safety and respect for all athletes regardless of sexual orientation has already accomplished a great deal. Incidents like this just show that there is still work to be done.
- You can’t have it both ways. You can’t want hockey players to have personalities, and then emphatically shoot down the ones that happen to be having a jerk moment. It’s an all or nothing deal; you have to take the good with the bad. For every Cam Janssen interview, there’s a day of Paul Bissonnette Twitter.
- We should all be thankful for the First Amendment. Nothing illustrates the beauty of freedom of speech better than when somebody says something ugly.