By Julie DiCaro–
(CBS) There comes a moment in many criminal jury trials in which the defense counsel has to try to explain why its client isn’t taking the stand. Defense attorneys hate these moments. Never mind that invoking one’s Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate oneself is as sound a legal strategy as there is. Never mind that juries are instructed that they can’t use a defendant’s refusal to testify against him. The bottom line is, no matter how innocent the client, it just looks bad.
On Thursday, Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks looked bad.
Not only did Kane look like he wanted to throw up for most of the press conference — in which he spoke publicly for the first time since news of a sexual assault investigation broke, a case in which he expressed confidence that he’ll be cleared of wrongdoing — he flubbed the most important line in his written statement, saying, “I am confident once all facts come to light, I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong.”
Whoops. If we wanted to get really technical about it, Kane just assured us all that he’ll be held accountable for … something.
Worse, Kane, decidedly green around the gills, then proceeded to take “hockey questions” from reporters, none of whom wanted to ask anything about hockey. As a result, Kane was forced to refuse to answer questions about the ongoing criminal investigation of rape allegations against him, a possible fan backlash and his infamous drinking habit. All the while, team president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville sat, stone-faced, just inches away. It was awkward, uncomfortable and just looked bad.
The worst moment, however, came not from Kane, but from McDonough.
“We recognize that Patrick Kane is dealing with a very serious situation,” he said. “Based on our discussions with his legal representatives who are very close to this matter, we have decided to have Patrick join us for training camp.”
While McDonough’s statement almost certainly referred to the fact that Kane hasn’t been charged with a crime and may not be for some time, if ever, the words came off as if the Blackhawks have information about Kane’s guilt or innocence that others don’t. It inadvertently implies that the Blackhawks are putting their money on Kane’s version of events, rather than the accuser’s.
For a team that has already faced criticism from women for their former use of “The Stripper” during the “Shoot the Puck” event and for the barely-there uniforms worn by the Ice Girls, McDonough’s statement was just more evidence that the Blackhawks are completely tone deaf when it comes to their female fans.
All in all, Thursday’s press conference was an exercise in futility. No one’s going to change their minds about Kane’s guilt or innocence based on anything said Thursday. No new information with regard to Kane was shared, and the Blackhawks can’t even claim brownie points for treating the subject of sexual violence with particular sensitivity.
Instead, all Blackhawks fans got was more of the same: one big, giant distraction from a championship team preparing to defend the Stanley Cup.
Julie DiCaro is an update anchor and columnist for 670 The Score. She previously worked for 15 years as a lawyer in criminal and family court. Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieDiCaro or onFacebook. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.