CHICAGO (AP) — As he watched the video, Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw realized exactly what he did.
“It was hard to see,” he said. “Emotions got the best of me.”
The NHL suspended Shaw for one game Wednesday for yelling an anti-gay slur from the penalty box and fined him $5,000 for an inappropriate gesture toward the officials during Chicago’s Game 4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
Shaw will miss Game 5 in St. Louis on Thursday, and he will be required to undergo sensitivity training.
The league’s punishment came after Shaw apologized for his outburst the previous night.
Speaking quietly for a few minutes before the team left for St. Louis, Shaw said he couldn’t sleep after the game and watching video of his outburst was difficult. It was video of the incident that went viral on social media, prompting sharp criticism and punishment from the NHL.
“I’ll never use that word again, that’s for sure. … That’s not the type of guy I am,” he said.
Shaw was sent off for interference at 17:56 of the third period, hurting Chicago’s chance for a comeback in what ended up being a 4-3 loss. He raised both gloves as he skated off, and while sitting in the box, he 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 swiftly tweeted that it was planning to contact the NHL.
The organization issued a statement Wednesday saying it supported the punishment handed down by the league and was “saddened and offended” by Shaw’s “homophobic slurs.”
“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 that they have on their teammates, fans and the LGBT community,” You Can Play said, adding it plans to keep working with the NHL and Blackhawks as well as Shaw to fight homophobia in hockey.
After Tuesday’s game, Shaw was asked twice about what happened and said he didn’t remember.
A day later, he said he saw the video after he returned home and 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 and coach Joel Quenneville apologized, calling what Shaw did “unacceptable.”
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.
Shaw’s outburst once again shined a light on both the barriers gays and lesbians face in sports and the progress they have made. It was also the latest blow it what has been a difficult year, image-wise, for the Blackhawks.
Star Patrick Kane was the subject of a three-month investigation into a rape allegation in August that failed to produce enough evidence for charges to be filed against him. The NHL ruled in March that the allegation was unfounded while determining he would not face any disciplinary action from the league.
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.
“Anytime an athlete uses homophobic language, it is sort of proof positive of the assumption that sports is not a safe and welcoming for LGBT athletes,” said Hudson Taylor, the founder of Athlete Ally, an organization that works with pro and college athletes to promote equality. “That being said, it’s also a major opportunity for everybody to restate our values, restate the type of culture we’re trying to create.”
Captain Jonathan Toews called the incident a “teachable moment.”
“We’re all thinking the same way Andrew is this morning, that we’re all apologetic that this has happened and moving forward, I think we’ll all be better because of it,” he said.
A national television audience heard 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 getting on him during a game a month later. Both quickly apologized, and the National Basketball Association hit them with large fines: Bryant was fined $100,000 and Noah $50,000.
Sacramento’s Rajon Rondo was suspended one game in December for using the slur as he berated official Bill Kennedy, who subsequently came out as gay.
Atlanta Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel came under criticism for asking Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple during the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis: “Do you like men?”
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. And in 2006, then-White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training for using a derogatory term against Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti.
Like MLB, the NHL has never had an openly gay player.
“It’s 2016 now,” Shaw said. “It’s time that everyone is treated equally. It’s a hurtful word, I know that. I’m sorry and I want to apologize.”