CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw has been suspended one game and ordered to undergo sensitivity training after uttering an anti-gay slur from the penalty box to someone on the ice in Chicago’s Game 4 loss at home to the St. Louis Blues.
Shaw was also fined $5,000 for “directing an inappropriate gesture” at the on-ice officials. He will miss Game 5 in St. Louis on Thursday when the Blues, who are up 3-1 in the series, will try to knock the defending Stanley Cup champions out of the playoffs.
“While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions,” NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement. “The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player.”
Speaking before the team left for St. Louis, Shaw said he couldn’t sleep after Tuesday night’s game and that watching video of his outburst was difficult. It was video of the incident that went viral on social media, prompting sharp criticism and an NHL investigation.
“It was hard to see. Emotions got the best of me,” Shaw said, adding that he understands why the slur is considered hurtful. “I’ll never use that word again, that’s for sure. … That’s not the type of guy I am.”
Shaw was sent off for interference at 17 minutes, 56 seconds of the third period, hurting Chicago’s chance for a comeback in what ended up being a 4-3 loss. While sitting in the box, Shaw pounded on the glass with his stick and then yelled at someone on the ice. As video of the incident spread online, the You Can Play project, a group supporting inclusiveness in athletics, swiftly tweeted that it was planning to contact the NHL.
After the game, Shaw was asked twice about what happened and said he didn’t remember.
“Being like I just said — I’ll repeat myself for you — emotions are high,” he said. “I don’t know what was said. Obviously I was upset with the call. I wasn’t happy with the call.”
A day later, Shaw said he saw the video after he returned home from the arena and said he was “sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made.”
“I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended,” he said. “I know my words were hurtful, and I will learn from my mistake.”
The team said it was “extremely disappointed” by the incident. Shaw scored a goal in the second period and had two assists in the loss, which left the defending Stanley Cup champions on the brink of elimination.
The team recently highlighted its partnership with You Can Play, which lobbies for equal and respectful treatment of all athletes without regard to sexual orientation. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and goaltender Scott Darling participated in a video supporting the group’s mission.
“Our team pledges to support all our coaches, teammates and fans,” Darling says in the video. “We believe that athletes should be judged by their character, work ethic and talent, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
You Can Play issued a statement after the suspension was announced.
“All of us at You Can Play were saddened and offended to see Andrew Shaw’s use of homophobic slurs during an NHL game. We wholeheartedly support the NHL’s decision to discipline Mr. Shaw,” it read. “After four years of working with You Can Play, NHL players can no longer use ignorance as an excuse for not understanding the power of their words and the effect they have on their teammates, fans, and the LGBT community. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the NHL, the Blackhawks, and Mr. Shaw as we work to finally eradicate homophobia in hockey culture.”
A national television audience heard former NBA star Kobe Bryant shout the same slur in 2011 at a referee he thought had made a bad call during a basketball game. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah yelled it at a Miami Heat basketball fan who had been antagonizing him during a game a month later. Both quickly apologized, and the NBA hit them with large fines: Bryant was fined $100,000, and Noah was fined $50,000.
Also in the NBA, Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo was suspended one game in December for using the slur as he berated official Bill Kennedy, who subsequently came out as gay. Major League Baseball in 2014 suspended Yunel Escobar, then a shortstop with the Toronto Blue Jays, for stenciling the word, in Spanish, onto his eye black.
Like MLB, the NHL has never had an openly gay player on an active roster. The founder of You Can Play, Patrick Burke, works in the NHL’s player safety office. He has championed the LGBT cause and said earlier this year that he has met gay players through the years who have been on active NHL rosters.
“I think today with cameras and mics and everything is picked up so much more maybe, I think that’s a big difference,” said Crosby, who has been involved with the NHL Players Association throughout his career. “But, yeah, I think everyone’s aware of kind of what the line is and crossing the line and that kind of thing. At the end of the day, things are going to be said that guys regret. It’s emotional, and we’ve all been there. We’ve said stuff that we probably shouldn’t have. It’s the heat of the moment, and most of the time, you know, you catch yourself right away, but it does happen out there.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.