As any sports fan knows, it doesn’t take much to get atheletes riled up during a game. It’s not uncommon for rival players to exchange taunts or jeers. But on Monday, Philadephia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds may have crossed a line by calling New York Rangers’ Sean Avery a “f*cking f*ggot.” The incident was caught on camera without audio, resulting in a dispute over the NHL player’s words.
In the video, Simmonds appears to yell the alleged epithet at Avery after the two players got into a physical altercation. Resorting to anti-gay slurs is ugly enough as it is, but if accurate, Simmonds’ insult carries extra weight because of Avery’s support of LGBT rights. Earlier this year, Avery came out as a straight ally and released a video for the Human Rights Campaign’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality series.
“I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated, and that applies to marriage,” Avery said in his video. “Committed couples should be able to marry the person they love.”
Simmonds claims he doesn’t remember the heated words that followed his scuffle with Avery. “I don’t recall everything that I did say to him,” Simmonds told ESPN New York. “But he said to me some things I didn’t like and maybe I said some things that he didn’t like. I can’t recall every single word I said.”
Yet later on Tuesday, Simmonds issued a statement specifically denying his use of homophobic language. An NHL official told the press that Simmonds will not receive any penalties over the incident. “Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom,” the official said.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has responded by calling on Simmonds to apologize. “Hate speech and anti-gay slurs have no place on the ice rink,” Mike Thompson, GLAAD acting president, said in a statement. “The word that Simmonds used is the same word that is hurled at LGBT youth on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility.”
“He should not only apologize for this anti-gay outburst, but the Philadelphia Flyers and the NHL have a responsibility to take action and educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable,” Thompson added.
Photo credit: BridgetDS (Creative Commons)