Mike Danton, the NHL player who pleaded guilty for attempting to bump off his "male acquaintance," has taken the first step to try to rehabilitate his image: He is threatening to sue Canadian media outlets who reported that the attempted hit was against his gay lover.
It's nice to see that Danton has his priorities in order. So what if the former St. Louis Blue is serving 7 ½ years in a Canadian prison for his role in a bizarre plot to apparently kill his agent David Frost? So what if his NHL career is over? So what if he first needs to rehabilitate his image as a human being? All this pales in comparison to reports that Danton might be gay, and we know that in the world of sports that is the worst kind of libel.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Danton filed a notice of libel, which preserves his right to sue in Canada. The notice alleges the Ottawa Sun and Toronto Sun were "false, defamatory and malicious" in their coverage of his April arrest. Danton took exception to the front-page headline: "NHLer Charged in Gay Hit Plot."
At the time of Danton's arrest, Frost told the London (Ontario) Free-Press that "Mike is suffering from some paranoia and some delusional thoughts regarding his past. In his mind, Mike honestly thought he was in danger." This prompted us to write: "Delusional. Paranoid. Suicidal. In the sports world, it's still better to be thought crazy than gay."
Danton, sadly, has proven this above sentence to be oh so true. Athletes can concoct strange murder plots, cheat on their wives, beat their girlfriends, or deal drugs, and none of that is considered worse than the thought that one jock would want to sleep with another.
Well, Mike, I have news for you: We don't want you. We want you to be straight. You'd make a lousy role model for any gay person, athlete or not. Based on the details of your case, you don't seem very bright and you don't seem very aware. In fact, you come across as just another clueless jock who thinks gay equals bad, something so heinous that only legal action can restore a reputation. Not that your reputation will be easily restored as you sit in the pokey for the next few years.
As we have said, we have no idea whether Danton is or is not gay. The "male acquaintance" was apparently Frost (though he denies it); the agent himself is a piece of work and someone who had almost a Svengali-type of control over Danton going back to junior hockey. The whole case is so strange that, short of a trial, we were never going to get to the bottom of it. As U.S. District Judge William Stiehl said at the July sentencing of Danton on a federal murder-for-hire conspiracy charge: "I do not believe in over 18 years on the bench I have been faced with a case as bizarre as this one."
So we thought that once Danton pleaded guilty and was sentenced, that would be the end of it. But his threat of a lawsuit will likely have the opposite effect than what Danton intended. If Danton goes through with it, the words "Mike Danton" and "gay" will be in newspapers all over the United States and Canada. Since, in our hyper-saturated media universe, stories go in and out of our consciousness in about five seconds, Danton had already become yesterday's old news. His latest actions, though, will only bring him more scrutiny.
Danton is apparently banking on Canadian libel law to get a favorable verdict. According to an analysis of the difference between Canadian and U.S. libel law, "As a general principal, Canadian libel laws lean heavily toward protection of an individual's reputation, while U.S. libel laws tend to favor the right of freedom of expression."
Regardless of the law, does Danton really want all his dirty laundry to be aired? I thought that's why he pleaded guilty in the first place. One would also hope that a Canadian court would find nothing libelous or damaging about stating someone is gay, accurate or not. After all, this is a country where nationwide gay marriage is almost a reality.
All of us in the gay community want role models. In recent years, some historians have speculated that Hitler was gay (not a good role model). A new book strongly intimates that Lincoln was gay (a good role model). We're still waiting for the first active big-sport jock to come out, and having it occur in the context of a murder-for-hire plot is not what we had in mind.
I certainly hope that Mike Danton is as straight as Wilt Chamberlain in a whorehouse. Mike, please take my advice: Don't sue. Drop it. Concentrate instead on improving your skills in the prison workshop. You'll need some way to make a living once you get out.