By Tim Bafafoe–
(CBS) Apologies in advance for cross-sport metaphors here, but the Chicago Blackhawks are in an 0-2 hole they’ve dug for themselves. It’s not a guarantee they’ll whiff again, but the two really bad swings and misses within a calendar year leave little hope for admirability for the first time in a year.READ MORE: Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy Confirms Justin Fields Has Cracked Ribs, Denies Latest Round Of Rumors
The baseball reference isn’t all that inappropriate, though, because this isn’t about actual hockey. So much of this Hawks season hasn’t been.
After taking a backbreaking penalty down a goal late in Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was shown on TV yelling a homophobic slur from the penalty box, adding to the moron résumé he’s built in crayon in his Hawks career.
Oh no.. https://t.co/i92yyrZyY4— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) April 20, 2016
This was seconds after he seemed to say something similar right after being called for the penalty …
… and also after he flipped double birds to begin his temper tantrum that would extend to after the final whistle, when he continued to scuffle with Blues and not go to the locker room and consider how he helped ensure his team is now facing an elimination game Thursday. Try as fanboy and SJW-counterterrorism expert apologists might — and already have — there’s no excuse for what Shaw said.
“I mean, emotions are high, I really don’t know what’s said,” Shaw said at his locker after a diaper change. “I was obviously upset with the call being that late in the game (as) it doesn’t give us a chance to tie it up.”
For people who aren’t homophobes, when their emotions are high, their reflex isn’t using a gay slur on national television. But like I said, Shaw’s a petulant moron who should be defined for now by the slurs he chooses, as should anyone until they’ve expressed a genuine desire to learn and change for the better — but especially as a public figure.
Which is why the focus in the immediate shouldn’t be holding Shaw to the fire, because piling on moron athletes in situations like this is a waste of time. A half-hearted apology from Shaw is going to come within hours of you reading this, and nothing will change on his end other than maybe pouting that people are bothered by his using a historically dehumanizing term to vent his colic.READ MORE: Former Chicago Bear Dan Hampton Faces Driving While Intoxicated Charge After Recent In Northwest Indiana
Nope, the attention should focus on the organization with two strikes against it. The Blackhawks spun in the dirt foolishly with the Patrick Kane press conference in September. Then they took an easy beach ball down the middle looking with their response to the Garret Ross situation. They can now salvage some of their now-phony reputation as the banner NHL franchise and, for once, step up in favor of a marginalized group in a way that isn’t planned, doesn’t get cameras and lighting pre-placed and doesn’t get turned into a sappy commercial for #OneGoal.
The Hawks need to break their own precedent and get out ahead of this in respectable fashion. Stripping this situation of its obvious humanity, Shaw’s a free agent who has maybe played his last game at the United Center anyway, so punt him now. Announcing a suspension for Game 5 in a series you’re highly unlikely to win would send messages that what the Shaw said can’t by any means be tolerated, that human decency is more important than hockey and that the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t the soulless hypocrites they’ve come off as for a while now. They literally had their players record a video two weeks ago for You Can Play.
“It was about starting the conversation about LGBT inclusion in sports,” co-founder Patrick Burke said in January of You Can Play and its partnership with the NHL. “Now we’re almost four years in, it’s no longer starting the conversation, it’s about what’s the next level of conversation. It’s engaging with fans, letting them know, hey, you shouldn’t be yelling out homophobic or sexist stuff. Just because you’ve got a ticket, it doesn’t give you a right to yell that.”
And if the spectators being overtly homophobic isn’t tolerated in pro hockey, it stands to reason the employees shouldn’t be allowed to express such ugly sentiment either. But this is the Blackhawks, a team that hasn’t held its players to standards we in the real world have to abide by professionally.
We are aware of tonight's incident and will be reaching out to the NHL immediately to assist in an appropriate response.
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
Hopefully the Hawks don’t take the weak handwashing route of letting this get kicked upstairs to the league office alone, though the NHL is definitely already all over this in saying it’s conducting an investigation. It’s safe to assume that when a player has run afoul of the league’s biggest sociopolitical partner that a league-mandated suspension is imminent, but it would be nice if Chicago’s team that talks a lot of talk on promoting good behavior would for once walk the walk (which isn’t making superfluous ice shovelers wear pants).
The Hawks should get proactive and announce very soon that the not-long-for-Chicago Shaw is benched for Game 5. Or at the very least, they should make a strong verbal example out of a player who likely won’t be wearing their sweater next season anyway, particularly as the supposed marquee team in a supposedly progressive league. Otherwise, the team patting itself on the back for participating in the city’s Pride Parade this coming summer might get a little awkward before it shoots another PSA about how much the Chicago Blackhawks care about people.
Not acting appropriately again on another player incident would be the third miss in a season about to strike out.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Slight Warm Up On The Way
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.