No doubt about it, Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds is experiencing a crazy week – even if he downplayed each well-publicized incident. One thing that won’t make things a little bit nuttier is a suspension or fine, though. The Canadian Press reports that Simmonds won’t face discipline for allegedly uttering a homophobic remark toward New York Rangers pest Sean Avery.
Shortly after the game, Simmonds told reporters that he didn’t remember what he said – only that “language was exchanged.” On the other hand, Avery confirmed the rumors, which were originally based on a video that convinced many lip-reading hockey fans that Simmonds was guilty of such trash talk. Earlier today, Simmonds denied that he made the remark.
It might seem ridiculous to some that such an incident generated suspension debate, but there are examples of the league handing out harsh verdicts for things players say (or gestures they make) rather than hits they deliver. As Joe pointed out earlier today, the NBA also made headlines when they fined Kobe Bryant a whopping $100,000 grand when a microphone caught the Los Angeles Lakers star making a homophobic slur.
The NHL probably made the right move
As revolting as trash talk can be – whether the insults revolve around race, sexual preference or other touchy social issues – it’s hard to blame the NHL for not taking action. Even if you believe in the power of lip reading, the league might have trouble suspending Simmonds based on limited evidence. Generally speaking, I think it’s probably unreasonable for a league to police the unsettling words that players use against each other when tempers flare.
Simmonds won’t get punished in a formal way, but it’s possible that he’ll lose face in the court of public opinion. If nothing else, this should be a lesson to any player talking smack: remember that microphones and cameras are all over the place. (And they’re only going to become more prevalent as technology improves.)
Safer alternatives for belittling opponents
With that in mind, players should stick to friendlier forms of mockery, such as:
- Someone’s questionable hair style.
- A person’s inability to grow a beard/let go of a not-even-ironic mustache.
- Perhaps mocking that person’s former junior or college hockey program would be a more family-friendly way to go?
- If you want to get really specific, you can even critique a player’s fashion sense. (Avery would approve.)
Sure, making fun of a player for going bald, having a mullet or wearing socks with sandals isn’t going to enrage them to the point of taking a bad penalty in most cases, but it’s better than losing face and encouraging activist groups to speak out against you.* (Although Bobby Hull might disagree with that general point.)
From my perspective, it’s a relief that this didn’t result in a formal penalty, even if it’s a very disappointing situation. What do you think about the lack of punishment? Should he sit out a game or more? Would the league be justified in at least giving him the CBA maximum fine of $2,500 for the incident? Let us know in the comments.
* – On the bright side, PETA wasn’t involved.