Tuesday, May 10, 2011

shut up, friends

0. Introduction

Background reading: an agent mouthed off about gay marriage.

Background music:

1. On the Agent

Close to 100% sure this is a very deliberate branding-and-attention move. I think we've just moved out of the era of 'Republicans buy shoes too' and into the final triumph of us-vs.-them.

After all, given the choice, most people would prefer to spend money with like-minded people. This is Uptown saying--clear as a dog whistle--to the generally conservative hockey community 'here we are'. It's likely that there was and is a genuine disagreement with gay marriage underlying the guy's tweets: this, then, is the issuing of a message that's clear to the faithful, in the way that dog whistles are inaudible to anybody but the intended recipient.

So he's trying to drum up business, and I bet it'll work. In the Puck Daddy podcast, much time was given over to whether or not this would lose the agency business, and the opinion was several times voiced that a player looking for an agent is looking exclusively for the one who can get them the most money. I think this is false: the most common finding there is in social science shows us, again and again, that people often step over their self-interest in favor of going with their values; that's what I predict this is designed to do; that's what I predict will happen. This time next year, Uptown isn't going to have a meager 11 NHL players on its roster, and those of us who lean--or, in my case, rampage on a rocket sled--toward the left are likely going to face some substantial disillusionment.

The biggest bummer in all of this, to me, is that it's so vanishingly unlikely that anybody in sports media will call the guy on his claims. He said in his tweets that he's neither bigoted nor intolerant, and repeated the claim on the radio, apparently. And I bet not one sports journalist will ask him to explain how denying a civil right to a defined segment of the population is non-bigoted, non-intolerant. I mean, I asked him, but he's obviously not going to get into it with a nobody on twitter when he can instead go on the radio and play the victim, whine about being called a homophobe.

[Note: Greg Wyshynski, editor of the Puck Daddy blog, did reach out to the agent for comment on exactly this matter and didn't hear back from him. Wyshynski deserves commendation: he's never backed down from this issue.]

2. On Athletes Talking Politics

I've been struggling a lot lately with whether or not athletes should make their political views public. In general, I'd say yes: this apolitical age isn't doing any of us any favors, and I'm a firm believer that progress starts with talking. However, there are at least two problems with this.

First, we're in an age of profound incivility, and the most innocuous statements seem to earn public figures incredible vitriol. Until athletes can speak their mind fairly freely, without juvenile insults and hateful namecalling, I'm hesitant to call for them to lend their voices to public discourse.

The second problem is that free speech means you're going to have to hear stuff you don't want to. In the case of athletes, I suspect we're going to have 100 Luke Scott types for every Sean Avery. It's hard for me to see how that's a good thing, but it's a less bad thing than stifling speech.


The right to have an opinion and voice it is not close to the same thing as the right to have your voice disseminated across the airwaves. To be honest, I don't much care what your average jock has to say about anything but sports. They have opinions and that's great, but surely there are are smarter and more engaged people we could be hearing from out there. What do we as a society gain from giving media platforms to people whose educations have always taken a backseat to their athletic pursuits?

(Craven backpedaling segment: I am painting with a broad brush here. What I really mean is this: I do not wish to have political conversations with people who are not willing to consider the possibility that they are wrong about something; I do not wish to have political conversations with bigots; I do not wish to have political conversations with people who cannot engage in civil discourse; I do not wish for such people to have microphones placed in front of them. And, before you ask: no, I don't watch a lot of TV, why?)

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