The Sean Avery Post (aka an introduction to sexism in sports)
The breakdown: Sean Avery is a hockey player who is in a bit of trouble these days. He recently pulled the press together in the locker room right before a game and made the announcement,
"I'm just going to say one thing. I'm really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just wanted to comment on how, it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight."
Yes, you read that correctly, Mr. Avery totally dissed his former girlfriend (Elisha Cuthbert) in public by calling her sloppy seconds to a room full of reporters.
The fallout: The four horsemen of hell are currently after Mr. Avery. He was suspended by the NHL within hours of the statement, his own team, the Dallas Stars said that if the NHL didn't suspend him, they would've, and his teammates have spoken publicly about how they are not really sure they want him to come back to the team once his suspension is over.
Which is all good, right?
Everybody from team officials to teammates standing up against misogyny and supreme outright assholishness?
Sean Avery is not a nice guy. This latest stunt of his caps off a string of stunts that has earned him no love from those who play against him--and has sparked hostility between his teammates and himself on many occaisions in the past. Avery has made disparaging remarks against the French ("I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up,"), called a black fellow player a 'monkey,' a team broadcaster an 'embarassment,' and even had a rule made just for him after he jumped up and down and waved his hands in front of a goalie in an effort to infringe the goalie's ability to stop a goal--an act that's just been understood after all these years of hocky--to be highly unsportsman like.
And that right there, Sean Avery's lack of sportsmanship, is what he's being punished for right now. And to be perfectly clear, it's not that calling a woman sloppy seconds is unsportsmanlike--it's that Avery didn't put the needs of his teammates before his need to 'get back' at some chick.
In hockey the one thing that you must do is commit to and honor that code of sportsmanship. The code that builds a sense of trust between players--a sense of trust
that promises "I will not bash your throat in with my stick until you are dead or can no longer play." In many ways, this code is highly necessary. Hockey is a very dangerous sport, careers have been ended by a swing of a stick, a misplaced skate can permanetly injure a person, even kill them. You are literally putting your life into other players hands when you step out onto the ice. So it's important that you know that code of sportsmanship and follow it to a tee.
On the other hand, just as with other highly masculinized professions
(the military, the police force, etc) that code of conduct has a way of writing out other serious problems that hurt human beings just as profoundly as a skate to a knee. For example:
Ott got 3 games for allegedly intending to hurt Jordan Leopold last
year. Chris Pronger got 8 games for intentionally stomping on Ryan
Kesler's leg. And now Avery gets a 6 game suspension for hurting
someone's feelings. I am not justifying what Avery said, but is it
twice as bad as a hit to the head? Is it almost as bad as intentionally
using your skate to try and harm another player (and after multiple
If only the league took hits to the head as seriously as they take
words from Avery's mouth OFF THE ICE.
Anger management counseling has to be finished within 2 weeks? I'm
absolutely sure that will cure him.
Posted by Brandon B @ 9:54 AM Fri, Dec 05, 2008
The sentiment that this incident essentially boils down to name calling and doesn't deserve a suspension that is as equal as a suspension for bodily injury is a common one that I've seen repeated over and over again on talk radio, blogs, listserves and Op/Eds. And as I mentioned above, the people who feel this way, they've got a point. What is worse, name calling or inflicting (many times) permanent bodily injury on a person?
But the fact can't be escaped that what is happening right now is that open sexism, open degradation and humiliation of women in a public sphere, is being subtly categorized as less important than team loyalty, pride and honor--and the safety of male players is being used to justify it.
Or, as his head coach and former teammate, Brett Hull said to the press;
"More than anything, he's let his teammates down. That's the worst part of it," Hull said. "It's basically a fundamental -- you don't embarrass the team and you carry yourself with class and good character. I've told him before, there's more to the game than just lacing up the skates. There are things you have to be accountable for."
The thing is, if Avery followed the code of sportsmanship that is required of him: nobody would've said a thing about his sexism. In fact, he probably would've been protected from the press by his teammates and team. We'd be hearing a whole lot of song and dance about how we need to understand what it feels like to have not one, but two girlfriends publicly dump you for people you play against and isn't that such an insult to his masculinity, poor poor thing? And then the issue would've quietly been dropped, just like how rampant rape, interpersonal violence, and drug/alcohol abuse are quietly ignored by every major sports league (see Sheldon Kennedy's story for starters).
So the question we, as people who have a vested interest in sexism and sexual violence ending in all its forms everywhere, should be asking is not, what can we do to shame Sean Avery--but rather instead, what can we do to dismantle to massive "wall of silence" around highly masculinized venues? What can we do to make women's lives and safety just as important, or MORE SO, than a well intentioned but ultimately backwards and almost singularly unjustifiable code of conduct?
The problem with asking the right question is that the answers to that question are never easy. Because believe me, it's much easier to write a hostile post about how stupid Avery is for not even realizing that he totally dissed his own damn self in trying to diss his former girlfriend: "my sloppy seconds"?? Use your understanding of the possessive to figure out how he accomplished that. The fact that I even wrote this paragraph should show you that I almost took the easy way out.
But as somebody who loves sports, even for all it's problems--I know that sexual violence against women and isolated young boys is normal in sports. It can not even be called the dirty secret nobody talks about--because it's not a secret. Quips about sloppy seconds and take it in the ass and stupid bitch etc etc etc are common every day occurrences, just like pictures of Hillary Clinton giving head and Obama dildos are.
It's time to do something about the secret everybody knows about and is steadfastly ignoring. And I think "doing something" all starts with asking the right questions.
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