Andrew Shaw and the Slur: What It Means To Me


Last night, when I came back home late from class, a friend of mine made me aware of another incident involving Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, and she wasn’t pleased.

Curious as I was to see what he’d done now, since he’s known frequently throughout the League to be an agitator, I decided to check it out. I didn’t like what I saw, and could instantly understand why she and anyone else would have been very upset by what he’d said.

First off, let me get this out of the way. I am not gay or trans, in case that needs to be pointed out. I’m straight, like most of you reading this probably are. A few of my tweets also indicate my sexual orientation. I had a girlfriend, and I’d tweeted about her for some time previously.

As it’s often cliched in the sports world, athletes are meant to be tough. And it’s true. Athletes are built to be tough and trained for success. Teams don’t want those who are weak and unable to get over their weaknesses.

Now comes the question: do every day homophobic slurs fall under the same category as “weak”? In other words, is it just a part of our every day language just so people can say “oh, get over it, it’s just a word”, or is it something more?

This is the very debate that still lingers in society, and if we’re going to really shed light on this issue, we have to just forget about sports altogether for just a moment. This isn’t just a sports issue. This is a society wide issue. We live in a world where homophobia runs rampant. Heck, even racism exists today in the most demeaning of ways. But, homophobia is still evident and unfortunately still accepted among lots of people. How many musical artists have had to cancel their tours now after the absolutely disgraceful law that was passed in North Carolina?

There are those out there who call out these issues as “weak”, and overly sensitive people — hell, society itself — as “weak”, and I don’t think that’s right. I honestly don’t think that’s right. This issue is here for a reason. Generally, actions speak louder than words. Yes. But, when you have all these homophobic derogatory words thrown around, it’s no wonder there are still gays, trans, bi, and lesbians who are still afraid to come out of the closet. And, every article I’ve read linked from Hockey Twitter from either a gay person or someone who very much sympathizes LGBT, I have to agree with.

I’ll probably be one of the few on the Web who will admit to making mistakes earlier in life. I think I’ve called people certain names on the Internet in arguments that should never have been thrown out there, and I’ve matured ever since. I don’t like using those words anymore. I don’t even like reading those words. Honest to God, they make me cringe. But, people will always be people. If there are those who think guys like me are being overly sensitive about the issue, then fine. That’s their way of thinking. Who are we to stop them?

At the same time, though, we have to at least raise awareness as to what’s wrong in today’s society, especially in sports. Again, I disagree that this is “weak”. I think this is a simply a society that’s seeing a change in behavior in people that we’re just not used to. There has always been resistance to change, and this is one of them. Gone are the days where masculinity was the number one priority. Gone are the days where people are supposed to act tough to not just survive in life, but also preserve their self-image as a tough guy, especially for guys. “You want to be feminine? Get the hell out of here. You don’t belong with us.” That’s the attitude that people were born with, but I think should be changed. We need to be more accepting of who we are and accept others for who they are. I think this is the biggest problem in sports, and I really hope that changes.

What Andrew Shaw did was absolutely uncalled for, and what he said was even worse. I really hope he learns his lesson from this and accepts any disciplinary action against him since I saw a notification that the NHL is looking into this. The You Can Play Project is also involved, and I honestly have to say the NHL itself has generally done a decent job at accepting people of different sexual orientation and disciplining those who have displayed obscene gestures and yelled slurs of this nature.

Sadly, I feel like this kind of behavior won’t stop, because it’s long become part of the competition. However, I can only hope these kinds of incidences will die down soon, if not the near future.

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