As you’ve likely heard by now, Cam Janssen did a radio interview this week where he said some pretty off-colour things. Some misogynistic, some homophobic, just a real nice mish-mash of things you probably shouldn’t say in public, let alone in private, let alone think.
While the immediate uproar (at least what I saw of it on Twitter) was “sick ‘em!,” Patrick Burke of the You Can Play team saw it as a teaching moment.
He reached out to Janssen, had what sounded like a productive conversation, and not too long after we got the following statement from Cam:
“Earlier this week, I participated in an internet-based radio show in which I used some poor judgment which I now regret. The New Jersey Devils were unaware of this interview, which I arranged myself.
“I would like to apologize for my poor choice of language. The tone of the interview was very casual and off-color, and I lost focus on what is and is not acceptable and professional. I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language. Moving forward, I hope to eliminate that type of language from my vocabulary. I would also like to take this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing, and for the gay community in general.
“I apologize for the embarrassment my comments have caused to the New Jersey Devils management, as well as my teammates.”
Concise, remorseful, appropriate. It even got the thumbs up from the good folks at GLAAD.
And, as Patrick put it himself:
People unwilling to give Cam a chance to learn from his mistakes are doing no more to support You Can Play than he did in his interview.
— Patrick Burke (@BurkieYCP) July 13, 2012
And I totally agree. He’s not “beyond help,” the apology wasn’t fake, it was just a shitty, regrettable interview. And hey, at least it got us talking about a good cause again.
Here’s the one point I want to make about the whole deal: we probably shouldn’t excuse the setting (settings in general, really), given that a hockey dressing room is that interview times five. That’s not to say hockey players are a bunch of pigs, but it’s tough to round up 23 rich males 20-40 years old without finding a half-dozen willing to egg guys into the gutter with them. And hey, it’s mob mentality – it’s real easy to get caught up in the laughs.
So yes, he was goaded on, yes, it’s a trash radio show where the host leads analogies with phrases like “The first time I banged a fat chick…” (what a fucking moron), but still, if we want to use it as a teaching moment, I think it’s important to note that those are the situations where the You Can Play Team wants hockey players to be more aware of their words. Those lowbrow conversations are exactly where the slurs come out, not a fancy dinner party. Anybody can pull it together during, say, a charity visit to the hospital.
This isn’t about Janssen anymore, it’s barely even about changing people’s minds – it’s about awareness, decency and fairness. The “boys will be boys” scenarios are at the root of why dressing rooms are uncomfortable for gay players, and that’s where we need to tidy it up.