Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ebony & Avery Redux

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Sean Avery, following his remarks about French players and visors. At the time, I went with the clever title, "Ebony & Avery", attempting to play around with the notion of black/white in relation to the rightness or wrongness of an action, the referees, yada yada yada. I also wondered if Avery's comments might lead to an escalation with the Coyotes. Well, as it turns out, I was prescient, if for all the wrong reasons. An escalation between Avery and another NHL team is occuring. It just isn't the Coyotes. It is the Edmonton Oilers. And the title of my post has taken on new meaning, as the Avery affair is now loaded with racial significance. As discussed the other day on Covered In Oil, Edmonton Oiler forward, tough guy, and black French Canadian Georges Laraque has accused Avery of calling him a monkey during a game between the Oilers and Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. No punishment has been handed down to Avery by the NHL, as no one else heard the comments. But as Covered In Oil notes (courtesy of the Edmonton Sun), the affair did not sit well with the Edmonton Oilers.
Sought out by coach Craig MacTavish and facing several Edmonton Oilers players, Sean Avery of the Los Angeles Kings denied directing a racial slur at Georges Laraque during a tense confrontation in the parkade of the Staples Center late Tuesday.

Avery, approached by MacTavish in the parkade with the Edmonton contingent waiting to board the team bus, denied he'd said anything inappropriate to Laraque.

When confronted by Laraque moments after being questioned by MacTavish, Avery became agitated and issued another denial, this one laced with profanity. That's when things got tense.

With Avery and two Kings players, one being rookie George Parros, on one side and Laraque, surrounded by several teammates, on the other, the situation had the potential to get ugly. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and the scene ended without any incident.

Now, Avery is claiming that Laraque made the whole incident up. From TSN:
''(He) fabricated the whole thing,'' Avery said in Friday's edition of the Los Angeles Times.

''I have no idea why he would do that,'' he added. ''I heard about it after the game and was surprised.''

Laraque is sticking to his claim, obviously. The whole incident is a blemish on the "New NHL", and indeed the game of hockey. Many may argue that the players should police themselves, but as Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi can attest, that hasn't exactly worked out well lately. Furthermore, Avery is a coward, and won't face Georges on the ice. The other night, he skated away every time Laraque was around. There seems to be little that the league can do, however, since no one else heard the incident. My guess is that it would have to take a player from the Kings stepping forward and reiterating any comments Avery may have made in the locker room, but that is a) never going to happen and b) a very bad precedent. The hope, I guess, as noted by others on the Covered In Oil post, is that Avery keeps talking, and chases himself out of the game. It has happened before. Just ask John Rocker.

The Oilers and Kings play each other on December 23, January 26, and March 30. Mark the dates on your calendar. This could get ugly before it gets better.

***Update*** I am assuming both the NHL and the NHLPA have a policy on personal conduct. Does anyone know if they have a language policy ie. on the utterance of racial slurs? My feeling is that Avery should have faced a stiff fine and suspension for his comments on French players. It didn't happen, and so I am wondering if a) a policy exists or b) insulting an entire province, culture and linguistic group is not considered to be prejudicial.


At 7:43 PM, Blogger Phoff said...

There is a policy in the NHL that forbids racial slurs and suspensions can be handed out.. In a somewhat ironic twist, Chris Simon was suspended for three games for calling Mike Grier the N-word. Precedents do exist.

So, if you’re wondering whether “a) a policy exists or b) insulting an entire province, culture and linguistic group is not considered to be prejudicial”, you are right on both counts. Yes, a policy does exist and no, the NHL does not consider a racial slur against a Francophone to be prejudicial. I guess, in these instances, they follow the lead of the CBC and their treatment of repeated offender, Don Cherry.

If Avery’s comments would have been directed at Black or Asian players, he would have been suspended. No doubt about it. If Cherry would have made similar comments about any other ethnic group, he would have been canned. Is there a double-standard?

Je pense que oui.


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