The Chicago Blackhawks played an uninspired game on Monday night, falling to the Vancouver Canucks 3-1. Defensive lapses were apparent all over the ice, but despite the outcome, the real story of the night ended up being comments made by defenseman Duncan Keith to a Vancouver reporter.
Karen Thomson, a reporter for Team 1040 radio in the city, asked Keith a question about a play involving Canucks winger Daniel Sedin, whom Keith had been suspended for five games for elbowing in the head last season. On this play, Keith appeared to slash Sedin in the back on the rush, and Thomson’s line of questioning about the play seemed to set Keith off.
The ensuing exchange has set off a firestorm of criticism about Keith’s “sexist” comments toward Thomson, with most people taking sides between the “what’s the big deal” and “what a classless buffoon” camps.
Here is the discussion, and a big thanks to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune for the transcript:
Karen Thomson: “Can you talk about what happened after the Daniel Sedin goal?”
Duncan Keith: “Which one was that one?”
Thomson: “The third goal.”
Keith: “The third one? Well, we scored one goal after that I think and the game ended 3-1.”
Thomson: “Right after the goal when you were on the ice with Daniel. Right after he scored. You remember?”
Keith: “I went off the ice and took a minus. I don’t know. What are you talking about?”
Thomson: “Nothing. Just checking.”
Keith: “What did you see?”
Thomson: “It looked like maybe there was a penalty that went undetected. You seemed a bit frustrated.”
Keith: “Oh no. I don’t think there was anything. I think he scored a nice goal. The ref was right there. That’s what the ref saw. We should get you as a ref maybe, eh?”
Thomson: “Yeah, maybe.”
Keith: “The first female…”
Thomson: “I can’t skate though.”
Keith: “The first female referee. You can’t play probably either, right? But you’re thinking the game like you know it? Okay, see ya.”
On first blush, we’ve seen this kind of statement made a million times. A player doesn’t like what a reporter has to say, and so he lashes out at that person with a snide remark about how they aren’t an official, or how they haven’t played the game. In this instance however, it was Keith’s insistence on addressing the reporter’s gender that has ginned up controversy, but is it valid?
The answer to this question is an unequivocal no. There is a saying about people who make mountains out of molehills, and that seems to be the case here. Keith was clearly not being dismissive about Thomson because of her gender. What perturbed him, and rightfully so, was Thomson’s refusal to come directly out and ask a question about the slash. Instead, she danced around the issue, and in declining to address the situation directly, she tried to back down.
What is more annoying about this situation is that Keith decided to go to the oldest dismissive statement in the book when he pointed out that Thomson “didn’t play.” Athletes do that all the time when addressing media members who are asking questions that they don’t appreciate, and the fact is that it’s a stupid effort to undermine the reporter’s credibility. A reporter can’t play hockey at the level that Keith can, but it stands to reason that Keith wouldn’t be able to report his way out of a paper bag either.
What will surely end up happening in this situation is that Keith will be compelled by the organization to apologize for his statements, and will likely go with the “I apologize if I offended anyone” track. The apology will sound hollow and meaningless, because it is. Keith has nothing to apologize for other than belittling the work of a reporter, and that would be the case regardless of what gender he or she was.