Shut up and play the game – the N-word and trash talk

Pardon the Eruption – Gav Sports Column
By Terrance Gavan
Trash talk.
Coach Walsh is watching from the stands until Minor Hockey
gets its collective head out of the sand.
   I don’t think it was around when I was growing up.
   Trash talk is imbued with a certain efficacy today.
   It’s subtle as a jackhammer.
   It’s unpleasant.
   It’s the antithesis of sportsmanship.
   It’s schadenfreude taken beyond reasonable bounds.
   I’m not a big fan … even though my number one hero, Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird was apparently one of its most vile and loathsome practitioners.
   Peterborough hockey coach Greg Walsh is paying the price right now for his bold and singular stand against trash talk emanating from a game on Nov. 15.
   Walsh is sitting out an as yet undetermined suspension for pulling his team off the ice during a hockey game a few weeks back.
   Walsh is sitting because he wouldn’t sit still.
   He’s sitting because the trash talk aimed at one of his teenage players clearly overstepped the bounds of good taste.
   He’s sitting because of a racist taunt aimed at one of his players.

   A player from an opposing team called Walsh’s player, 16-year-old Andrew McCullum: “Nigger.” (Writer’s note: If we continue to use the N-word – as most publications do – as a replacement for what was really said it does a disservice to the process and the reader. It’s an ugly word. When it’s uttered in anger it should be exposed for what it is: Gutless, spineless, mealy-mouthed racism.)
   The word was directed at McCullum while both players were sitting in the penalty box during a Peterborough Minor Hockey Association league encounter.
   McCullum told the Toronto Star that both players “were chirping at each other,” when the opposing player upped the ante.
   The referee said he could not make a call because none of the zebras were within earshot.
   The referee has the authority to go to the minor official in the box for clarification.
   If it’s determined that the player had uttered the word in question then the ref should chase the player off the ice and pursue further suspension via the scorer’s sheet.
   Simple as that. I have consulted with minor officials on more than one occasion as a basketball referee.
   While the officials did an ostrich, the opposing coach sat the offending player for the remainder of the second period.
   But when Walsh and his team returned to the ice in the third, the wielder of the racist taunt was still dressed and ready to take a regular shift.
   Walsh was most concerned that no apology from the opposing team was offered; and the fact that the player was still dressed just seemed wrong.
   Walsh told the ref that his players were walking off in protest.
   The referee informed Walsh that the consequences for leaving the ice before the completion of a game could be devastating.
   Walsh told the ref to do what he had to do. He said that his team could not in good conscience compete when the offending player was still in the game.
   “In order for us as a team to protect our player from that, we said that we weren’t going to play and we went to the dressing room. Simple as that,” he said. The players were unanimous in their support.
   “He wanted to make a statement that he does not tolerate racism,” McCullum said of his coach. He’s played for Walsh’s NAPA Auto Parts club for years.
   Walsh was suspended by the league.
   He has been forced to the wings and away from his cherished spot on the bench.
   Hockey Canada says that he could be sitting for a year.
   OMHA executive director Richard Ropchan, cited in the Tor Star article said, “that while Walsh may not be suspended for an entire year, he expects the coach will suffer some penalty. ‘He has breached the regulations, and that’s suspendable (sic), so I don’t know how long it’s going to be.’ ”
   Meanwhile the opposing player is sitting out a three game suspension. A letter of apology has been written and McCullum will receive it soon.
   TorStar reports that the opposing Austin Trophies coach John Welsh said the offending player is a good kid who deeply regrets the incident.
   We get it.
   Guy walks into a Legion bar in Campbellford on Halloween with a lasso around his neck and a guy in Ku Klux Clan garb leads him around for the night.
   The mayor calls it unfortunate.
   The man in blackface says he’s definitely “not a racist.”
   Now we have a “good kid” who calls an opponent “Nigger.”
   Here’s the skinny coach Welsh.
   Some of us know a line of BS when we hear it.
   I’ll give your “good kid” some credit, if and when he grabs a pair, and comes out and apologizes publicly with his name attached.
   Until then he’s just another pipsqueak with anger issues.
   Here’s a thought.
   Sit the little twerp till Greg Walsh is back where he belongs.
   Behind the bench.

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