Sean Avery is a controversial figure, and when a controversial figure speaks out on a controversial, emotionally charged issue, there will be dissenting voices. And they will be loud, and sometimes vulgar.
This is an unfortunate side effect of a society driven by the instantaneous reactions of social media, and the avenue they provide to spew raw, often poorly-formed throughts. But no one is blind to the rash and intense reactions generated by an issue like gay marriage, especially not a prominent athlete accustomed to being in the public eye like Avery.
So when he appeared in an ad last week for the Human Rights Campaign endorsing gay marriage, Avery no doubt hoped the message would be well received, and that it would prompt intelligent debate amongst those who don’t share his opinion. There’s also little doubt that he was prepared to face criticism for taking such a bold stance, even though he received support from renowned Twitter addict Paul Bissonnettte, and the Rangers. Criticism is the accepted reality of sticking even one toe into the volatile waters of an issue like gay marriage.
I doubt Avery expected the harsh words would come from a player agent licensed by the NHL. I doubt anyone did.
Todd Reynolds is an agent and the Vice President of Uptown Sports Management, a firm that’s been in operation for 25 years and has 11 NHL players on its list of clients. That list includes Nashville forward Mike Fisher, Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil, and Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier. Only a few hours ago you were completely indifferent to the information outlined in the previous two sentences, but now you’re not thanks to the following statements tweeted by Reynolds from the company’s official Twitter account:
This post already has easily the most serious sounding headline in HOTH history, and our goal here isn’t to dig into the core of moral issues. We won’t debate Reynolds’ words, or his stance on the sanctity of marriage. Similar to Avery’s HRC ad, Reynolds’ comments will undoubtedly be dissected as this fire continues to burn throughout the interwebs.
What’s at issue here is the ease with which Reynolds strutted across the line separating free speech with common sense and professionalism. Let’s take him at his word for a moment, and assume that his intention truly was to express his opinion on a highly divisive issue. As Puck Daddy tells us, that’s exactly what Reynolds said during a TSN radio appearance.
As unpopular as his opinion may be, Reynolds is entitled to it. His mistake wasn’t in holding an opinion that runs against commonly held beliefs; it was in how he expressed that opinion. Reynolds used a Twitter account under his company’s name, a company that’s tied to the NHL, and several NHL players–one of whom played in Game 6 of the Western Conference semi-finals tonight. We only discovered it was Reynolds in front of the keyboard later on after the first tweet was posted, and the storm was already well underway.
There are similarities between Reynolds’ social media misuse, and the moronic tweeting of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall last week following the death of Osama bin Laden. Both Mendenhall and Reynolds are in positions that make it highly unwise and destructive to broadcast controversial thoughts on the Internet. However, the similarities end when we consider the positions of Mendenhall and Reynolds more specifically.
Mendenhall is an employee. He’s a highly talented employee, but an employee nonetheless. His conduct should reflect that of someone who is under the constant scrutiny of the public eye, and he can be cut loose if his actions are deemed too detrimental.
Reynolds is the VP of a company operating within the boundaries of the NHL, and representing NHL players. He’s failed to understand that even with the rigid 140 character limitations of Twitter, any self-respecting company associated with a major internationally known business should maintain a certain level of professionalism.