From time to time we’ll be publishing pieces from guest contributors with a strong point of view. Opinions expressed in guest contributor pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire staff of The Other Half. Interested in being a guest contributor? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we welcome Casey Rathunde. Casey has a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Modern Dance from the University of Utah and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago, which is why people think she’s kidding when she says she works in the tech industry. After many years as a mediocre gymnast and several (more successful) years as a springboard diver, she fell in love with hockey. She now plays defense on two women’s teams in the Chicago area, and enjoys the novelty of wearing protective gear during sports. Follow her on Twitter at @Raedances.
I’ve been putting all my Blackhawks memorabilia into boxes, and covering up the blank spaces on my walls. I’ve deleted their app from my phone, and removed the little star next to their name in all my news feed applications. Piece by piece, I’m removing the debris from the wound. Someday, I hope that these memories will be nothing more than a footnote in my life: a nasty break-up; a bitter falling out; a flat, shiny scar. Someday, I may be able to remember the good times without feeling the weight of disappointment settling heavy in my gut, but some things feel like they can never be forgiven.
You may think that this is about Patrick Kane, but it’s not. Not anymore. Whereas you can choose to believe that there is ambiguity surrounding the actions of Kane, what we can no longer deny is that the Chicago Blackhawks organization have made their own position explicit. The Chicago Blackhawks don’t care about rape.
You can spin it however you like, but the message they sent on September 17th was clear: “You can be accused of rape and play for this organization. You can wear our logo while a case is built against you, using evidence ‘collected’ from a woman’s body. We will pay you, we will tweet about you, we will put you on the ice in front of a cheering crowd – just be good at hockey.”
This is suddenly so much bigger than Patrick Kane. This is the Chicago Blackhawks organization telling all of its members that the only thing that matters is what happens on the ice. This is every woman in Chicago being made less safe as a result of that stance. If you see one of the Blackhawks out at a bar, are you going to consider it exciting or interesting, now knowing what you do? Will you ask for a photo or an autograph, or will you think about the fact that if that man commits a rape tonight, he can feel confident he will skate for his team tomorrow?
If you are a reporter, do you now think twice about who else might be in the room while you interview a member of the Blackhawks? Do you second-guess your safety, knowing that he has been told his skills on the ice matter more than his actions off of it? What if you are a reporter whose safety has been compromised for the simple action of reporting the facts of the Kane investigation while female?
What if you are a female member of the Ice Crew, being expected to pose for photos with fans in bars and stadium hallways? Are you confident that if one of the drunk men putting his arm around your shoulders feels entitled to more, that your employer will stand up for your rights? Or are you now concerned that your safety and bodily autonomy are merely ‘distractions’ from the meaningful business of hockey?
What if you’re an employee at the United Center, working in deserted hallways after a game? How do you feel now, knowing that the men walking the hallways can expect no meaningful repercussions to come from an accusation of assault or misconduct? What if you need that job, regardless of whether or not you feel unsafe performing it?
If you’re a regular viewer of the Blackhawks’ home broadcasts, you’re familiar with Eddie Olczyk’s frequent refrain: “All you young hockey players out there…” Let’s think about them for a minute – what message have the Chicago Blackhawks imparted to them about the importance of respect for women? If one of those young hockey players happens to be particularly talented, is he suddenly feeling bulletproof? Is he starting to believe that a “no” on prom night could be swept under the rug by a State Championship or a high draft-position? More importantly, can any of us demonstrate to him that it wouldn’t be?
Finally, what are you thinking if you’re one of the people who believes in the innocence of Patrick Kane? Are you conscious of the fact that you cheer alongside people who believe he is guilty, but don’t care? How about the fact that some of these people believe he is guilty, and view his continued presence as validation that their own poor treatment of women is both justified and normal? You may rationalize your continued support of Kane under the banner of “innocent until proven guilty,” but you stand in solidarity with those whose figurative banners say far different things. Terrible things like, “She probably deserved it,” or, “He only did what any man would do.” You may not agree with these people, but your tickets beep the same way at the door.
Ultimately, the Chicago Blackhawks may cut ties with Kane, but the damage has been done. The message has been sent. If they “do the right thing” later, we will all know that it is only as a result of having had their hand forced. Even if Kane is somehow exonerated tomorrow, the Blackhawks will still have taken the stance that rape is nothing more than an “off-ice issue.” A “distraction.” Even if you are one of the people who want to believe that Kane is innocent of any crime, you cannot deny that the Blackhawks have made an aggressively harmful statement by allowing Kane to remain an active member of their organization during this investigation.
This problem did not begin with the Blackhawks (nor are they the only NHL team currently sending this message), but now that their position has been so clearly stated, it feels intellectually dishonest to do anything except walk away. I can no longer support them with a clear conscience, or cheer for them, knowing their hierarchy of values. I refuse to stand in assumed solidarity with the people who believe these accusations don’t matter. I will not become someone who selfishly prioritizes enjoying sports over standing up for the well-being of others. At this point, all I can do is hope that nobody else is hurt by these men who have now been explicitly and clearly told that they live beyond the reach of consequence.
It is difficult to walk around Chicago right now. The Blackhawks dominate this space – on billboards, news tickers, bar televisions, and on the heads and chests of its residents. As the organization prepares to raise their latest championship banner, the anger and betrayal that felt so uncomplicated in the offseason now exist alongside a feeling of loss. Every stray reminder of the team has begun to exert a gravitational pull, and choosing to stand firm is no longer a passive choice. There’s a part of me that may always pull towards this team, and maybe someday, with enough time and turnover in the organization, I will make the choice to retrieve my boxes from the basement. That day, however, is not today, and as long as Patrick Kane remains a Blackhawk, that day can never come. It may hurt to walk away, but in the end, people matter more than any game.
Managing Editor’s Note: Comments have been closed on this article in response to a history of abusive comments left on every single other piece we’ve ever posted on the subject of women and hockey. We will never provide a platform for that.