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The naked and the Leaf

jiri-copy.jpgJiri Tlusty plays for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, but last year what he really needed was a fig leaf.

As we reported a week ago, Tlusty was in the news when a Canadian gossip blogger, Zach Taylor, tried to imply the 19-year-old player might be gay because shots surfaced of him sticking his tongue in the face of another man. The story pretty much died there since the link was so tenuous and a real stretch. But the story got legs when Tlusty showed his third leg in naked pictures that appeared on that blog, Is This Happening. Toronto's City News sets the scene:

[Tlusty] a Czech native was playing with the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last season, when he apparently used his cell phone to take some compromising pictures of himself wearing almost nothing -- and then nothing at all. That was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was posting them on his Facebook site for the world to see.

Mistake number three was sending those shots to a girlfriend. They wound up on a variety of Internet sites and have now come back to haunt the embarrassed teenager, who's bound to take a huge ribbing from fellow players.

The story was splashed on the front page of the tabloid Toronto Sun, which used the headline "Lusty Tlusty: Leafs Rookie Winger Embarrassed After Raunchy Self-Taken Photos Create Internet Frenzy." Internet users visited Outsports via such search terms as: jiri tlusty naked; Jiri Tlusty nude photos; pictures tlusty naked; Jiri Tlusty naked photos and naked jiri tlusty.

Tlusty apparently took the photos during his birthday last year in Czech and he was embarrassed by all the publicity they caused. "I feel like s--t right now," he wrote to Is This Happening, and later in a statement released by the team, said, "I used poor judgment in this instance last season and I have learned a valuable lesson. It will not happen again and I have no further comment."

The Maple Leafs are standing behind Tlusty. "Photographs were posted recently on the internet without Jiri’s knowledge or consent," General Manager John Ferguson said. "He made a naïve mistake as a teenager. It’s a lesson in how something private can easily become very public in the internet age. Hopefully it’s a lesson that other people will learn from as well.” His teammates were also very supportive, with forward Wade Belak even joking that, "Guess I won't be taking the garbage out naked anymore."

This is just another reminder that the concept of privacy in the Internet age is virtually nonexistent. Taylor, the blogger, removed the naked photos from his website after Tlusty's lawyers sent him a threatening letter (but they can still be found in multiple places). He has seen his traffic go from 1,000 page views a day to 100,000, so he has achieved his goal, which is maximum exposure. "I feel bad for the kid," said Taylor, apparently seriously. "But he's a professional athlete -- this is what happens."

It's easy to sympathize with Tlusty. A lot of us did some dumb things when we were teenagers and fortunately the Internet and cell cameras weren't around when I was 18. He is a talented player and will easily overcome this incident. In a moment of irony, he scored his first NHL goal earlier this season … when the puck bounced off his butt into the net. Some things you just can't make up. --Jim Buzinski