Update: NHL says Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly did not use gay slur during game. Read more.
The NHL said it is investigating the use of a homophobic slur during Monday’s Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs game, won by the Lightning 6-2.
“The NHL is aware of reports that a homophobic slur was used during the Maple Leafs-Lightning game,” NHL Public Relations tweeted. “The League is investigating the incident and will have no further comment until this investigation is completed.”
On audio from the game, it’s appears that someone calls a referee a “fucking faggot.” In this clip, the slur can apparently be clearly heard with the TV announcers saying “[Leafs defenseman] Morgan] Rielly looking for a hooking penalty there” as the words are caught on the mic. It is unclear who uttered the words, though, and whether it was a player. The slur with 1:51 left to play in the second period.
It’s telling that the league states definitively that a gay slur was uttered and it’s what I hear listening to the audio multiple times. It also seems that the offender was a Maple Leaf player, someone with the team or a fan based on a statement Maple Leafs PR put out on Twitter from general manager Kyle Dubas:
“The club is aware of the reports surrounding a homophobic slur used during the Maple Leafs versus Lightning game on Monday night. The issue of homophobia is one the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club strongly condemns and takes very seriously. We are in communication with the NHL and are cooperating fully with their office.”
As ESPNw reported, the Maple Leafs have been one of the most vocal supporters of the “You Can Play” organization, which partnered with the team on Feb. 25 for a night that spotlighted the LGBTQ hockey community. A public service announcement featuring Maple Leafs players was shown in-arena during the game.
Ryan Pettengill, Executive Director of You Can Play, provided this statement to Outsports:
”It’s disappointing to hear that audio, and it actually doesn’t matter who said it. What matters is that we have more work to do in creating a culture where language like that just this doesn’t exist. The NHL have been really important partners in the You Can Play mission, and MLSE is one of the most engaged sport organizations we work with. I’m confident that they will continue to be as we use this incident as a training and learning moment, and to galvanize the Hockey is for Everyone campaign to get stronger and stronger.”
The league has punished players before for using anti-gay slurs. Andrew Shaw was suspended for one game in April 2016, and fined $5,000, when he yelled “faggot” after receiving a penalty. At the time he was with the Chicago Blackhawks, and his suspension forced him to miss Game 5 of the playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. Shaw was also required to undergo sensitivity training.
But a year and a month later, the NHL failed to do anything more than fine Ryan Getzlaf when the Anaheim Ducks captain yelled an anti-gay slur at a ref in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Nashville Predators.
Social media was awash in theories that I won’t get into and, as usual, the trolls took over. A Reddit hockey forum had to shut down its comments on the thread, writing:
Racist, ethnic, sexist or homophobic slurs/remarks of any kind will lead to a ban. Read more.
People coming here to say “it’s just a word” or “people are too PC” will be banned. We know the trolls are out.
The NHL themselves even say “Hockey is for everyone” https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-is-for-everyone.
Thanks and please ”Remember the Human.”
Edit: At over 3 hours we’ve let this thread go on. The trolls have now invaded. We’re locking this thread now as there has been plenty of discussion to read through.
I applaud the Reddit moderators because “faggot” is about the worst gay slur that can be uttered against a man, and has been the slur of choice in sports forever. The NHL has suspended players before for saying the word and if a player uttered this, he needs a long suspension and fine.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated to include new reaction from You Can Play and background on past actions by the NHL against anti-gay slurs.