by Amanda Vontobel
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by Erin P. Capuano
It’s just boys being boys, but is it really? Monday September 26th the New York Rangers met the Philadelphia Flyers in a classic NHL rival matchup. Games between these two teams are always downright rough, but this first meeting of the pre-season seemed to have a bit more dirt than usual. I was aware only a short time into the game that Philly wasn’t here for a friendly rival pre-season game, when an early boarding call was made against them. Tom Sestito racked up 20 minutes in penalties for taking a boarding penalty for his dirty hit from behind on Andre Deveaux, after which a brawl ensued. While hockey is known to be a bloody sport the league has been cracking down on high hits, and hits where the man is helpless, or without the puck, due to the massive head injuries that have plagued the league, and ended the careers of many players in the last few years.
During the first scuffle of the game, Sean Avery of the Rangers, and a huge supporter of the LGBT community, had it out on the ice with Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers. Trading punches and barbs at one another. During this exchange, it is said by Avery that Simmonds called him a “fucking faggot.” Avery took some heat this past year for posting a pro same sex marriage video in his Ranger’s jersey, to support the same sex marriage law that was up in New York. While the interaction was caught on video and clearly Simmonds can be seen mouthing the words, but because there was no audio, the NHL has declined to take action against Simmonds for what they call “lack of proof”.
Someone who has since come out against this decision in the league is the Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, father of the late Brendan Burke, a pioneer for acceptance of gays in hockey. Brian a gay man himself was a sounding board for all the things in hockey that were wrong, as far as policies and procedures that weren’t in place to protect players should they choose to come out. After Brendan’s death in a car accident his father Brian is carrying on his legacy. As a fan who has attended at least ten Ranger games in my life, I can attest to the fact that the use of the word faggot is thrown around quite a bit in the stands and the sport itself isn’t exactly a safe haven for gays, but it’s never been a threatening one either. People will mostly chalk this up to boys being boys, heat of the moment competition mentality, but other professional sport leagues have adopted rules and policies recently to protect LGBT players and fans from discrimination and hate speech. A perfect example of this is the fine of $100,000 against NBA player Kobe Bryant after his use of a gay slur on the basketball court during a game. Even the NFL has recently jumped on board and adopted new rules for the conduct of its players regarding inclusion and acceptance.
Are we seeing a softer side of professional sports? In some cases yes and unfortunately in the incident of Sean Avery, it seems the NHL just hasn’t caught up yet with what most of us already know, its 2011 and I’m quite sure there are a lot of gay hockey players. Just as you would protect a black hockey player from discrimination, a gay player deserves the same safety and respect afforded all other players, both on the ice and in the locker room. Sean Avery is known to be a bit of an instigator and has gotten under the skin of many a normally calm player, but does that warrant the use of such a derogatory term? Hell no! As a huge New York Rangers fan and hockey in general, I was very offended and upset over what happened both between Sean Avery and Wayne Simmonds, and the way many of the Philadelphia Flyers conducted themselves on the ice the other night. It was a disgrace to the game and its one that has to be addressed. If we ever want to move forward and be progressive in a sport that prides itself on loyalty, teamwork and discipline then we need to address the pink elephant in the room.
For more information on this incident CLICK HERE and you can read more about Brian Burke’s comments HERE.
by Lorraine Mazza
Leisha Hailey is probably best known for her role as bisexual journalist Alice Pieszecki on Showtime’s former series The L-Word. The show followed a group of close knit lesbian friends through their trials and tribulations of…well, being gay in LA. The character Alice was usually the comic relief, but she had an outspoken, stand up for what is right side to her. When reading the story of Leisha getting escorted off a Southwestern plane in an apparent homophobic incident, I couldn’t help but wonder…what would Alice do? Probably the exact same thing as Leisha did.
Leisha took to her Twitter feed to vent about the incident. As I read my Facebook news feed quoting the tweets, I reserved my opinion at first. I didn’t think I could have a fair opinion for not having witnessed it first hand. According to reports, Leisha and her girlfriend/Uh Huh Her band mate Camila Grey shared a kiss. Soon after, a flight attendant approached them to relay the message that they are a family airline and their behavior was unacceptable. They felt they were being discriminated against and became verbally heated with the flight attendant. This was when they were apparently escorted off.
After the dust settled a bit, Leisha and Camila issued a formal statement, which I think was brilliantly done.
They explain that they were not initially told by the flight attendant why they were being approached, just that they needed to be aware that Southwestern Airlines is a family oriented airline. This is a key factor because it implies that Leisha and Camila’s type of family is not welcome on Southwestern Airlines. Or at least not welcome to show affection towards each other.
Their statement is ripe with words that show the utmost respect, compassion, and humanity that their fans know they possess. They take complete responsibility for the profane language with the flight attendant. And they are not asking anyone to boycott Southwestern, as Leisha did in her original tweets. Of course many people are taking that stance on their own. But it seems that Leisha and Camila have taken some time to assess the situation more clearly. They merely want the airline to learn from this situation. They clarify that they were in no way out of line or excessive in their affections. This may come down to how one defines “excessive” but I believe if they are specifically saying it wasn’t, then it wasn’t. Their kiss was probably no more than any heterosexual couple would share in a public place. If the fact that it was two women makes anyone uncomfortable, that is not for the airline to condone. I’m willing to bet that no one would notice, let alone complain, about a heterosexual couple kissing. And that is the biggest issue here. Leisha and Camila’s intent is to bring awareness and promote acceptance. As the saying goes, visibility matters. And this is precisely why. Attaching a sense of normalcy to same sex couples can show people that it’s not gross or weird, it’s just two people showing affection for each other.
Southwest Airlines followed up with a statement saying that Leisha and Camila were escorted off for profane language. But, the fact that they got booted for profane language, not kissing, is besides the point. The kissing incident led to the discriminatory comment by the flight attendant, which led to the profane language.
The gay community has achieved great strides in the last several years. But we’ve also taken a few steps back. It seems as if all of the small victories have incited the opposition to become more adamant in their stance against us. Many will say that’s just their right to exercise their views, as we do ours. But the difference is simple. We are striving for acceptance, equality and to live as openly honest as everyone else. They want to judge and condemn. They use veiled acceptance words like, “I’m fine with gays, I just don’t want their lifestyle shoved in my face”. And that means being “disgusted” when they see two men hold hands, kissing, embracing, acting too flamboyant for their liking…in other words, just being himself. Newsflash, that is not being fine with gays. That’s ignorance and prejudice. No one is trying to push their lifestyle on anyone. We simply want to live OUR lives as openly as you live YOURS. That is what Leisha and Camila encountered on the Southwestern flight. The freedom to be themselves taken away by others who couldn’t handle a little affection between a couple who just happened to be two women.
We’d like to thank Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey for bringing this story to light. It needs to be heard. We thank them for standing up for themselves because we know each step they take forward helps us take two. We thank them for their openness and visibility that helps those not sure feel more comfortable in their own skin. We thank them for being positive role models…because in a world full of bullies, we could use all the good we can get. Thank you.