I don’t have the energy to summarize the scandal too much. May I recommend this summary (CW), or simply Googling it. The worst part of the story is the horrific abuse Kyle Beach endured. Coming up in close second is the level of cover up at every level of the organization’s leadership. Closely coming in third is the level of horrific homophobic slurs and toxic masculinity that Kyle Beach had to endure for something that was no fault of his own.
This is a player who gave his body and soul to the sport of hockey. He was an absolute star at the junior level, so much so that he was drafted by the Blackhawks high in the first round. This was one year after the Hawks drafted Patrick Kane, who the Blackhawks shamelessly defended in a sexual assault scandal of his own, despite a pattern of abusive behavior. This is an organization who, before anyone even asked, jumped the gun and loudly announced they would not change their offensive name with racist origins. For years, Hawks fans wondered why Kyle Beach, a highly touted prospect, never got a fair shot in the NHL. Now we know why.
At the same time this story was unfolding, the Hawks and their fans were enjoying the most joyous stretch in the history of their franchise, founded nearly 100 years ago. In 2010 they ended a 49 year year title drought, and proceeded to win 3 Stanley Cups in 6 years. I had strong connections to Chicago through college, and watched some of my friends there, Hawks fans for life, enjoy the kind of success that all sports fans dream of. Kane, aside, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, and many others became names that Hawks fans will talk to their grandchildren about. All of those names, as well as the organization leaders that brilliantly managed their roster, are tainted forever.
It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating. I hate all of it. Other franchises are dragged into it. And it’s so predictable based on everything we’ve seen from hockey culture, and sports culture in general.
I’ve been feeling frustrated about this for the past 24 hours. I’ve stayed a fan of the New York Knicks and New York Jets despite their cultures of sexual harassment and toxicity. I don’t begrudge Blackhawks fans or any sports fan for staying loyal to a team. But I don’t know what I’d do if I was a full fledged Hawks fan right now.
I don’t see this culture changing. I can’t do anything personally to change it. Some people don’t understand why the Internet defaults to hostility. It’s one of the reasons I decided to blog more and post on social media less. But when you’re powerless to stop a force in society that has devastating consequences on people who don’t deserve it, and not nearly enough consequences for those who abuse, sometimes the best response is simply “fuck you”.