The Toronto Maple Leafs sit second-to-last in the Atlantic division, with only the lowly Buffalo Sabres in their rear view mirror. They're 1-7-2 in their last 10 games played, and have only made the playoffs once in the last 10 years (only to be eliminated by the Boston Bruins in an epic, soul-crushingly painful fashion).
There isn't a whole lot to be optimistic about for Leafs fans these days, except perhaps for the fact that the 2015 NHL draft is expected to be one of the deeper drafts in recent years, with a few elite, face-of-the-franchise type players available (see Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel).
It's understandable that Leafs fans would be frustrated.
It's understandable that Leafs management would be frustrated.
It's understandable that Leafs players would be frustrated.
Somehow, all of this frustration caused a 20-year-old kid to say something really, really dumb.
This morning, TSN 1050 Leafs beat reporter Jonas Siegel tweeted a quote from Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly that made him a trending topic on Twitter within minutes:
Morgan Rielly today said positive approach, strong work ethic during tough time was key. "You're not here to be a girl about it."— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) February 20, 2015
Morgan Rielly probably isn't sexist. Morgan Rielly probably didn't even realize that what he was saying was wrong. A lot of people that heard what he said probably didn't think much of it. This kind of attitude has been prevalent for as long as men have played hockey.
It's not uncommon for Sidney Crosby to be called 'Cindy' Crosby because he has a reputation of being a whiner.
It's not uncommon for the Sedin twins to be called the Sedin Sisters (for reasons I still don't understand).
It's not uncommon for players who aren't satisfied with their performances to compare themselves to 'little girls' (as Tomas Plekanec did in a playoff series against the Bruins).
Morgan Rielly isn't the only guy out there who has said or done something sexist, but this is a teachable moment. Before you leap to Rielly's defense, sit back, listen, think, and reflect.
Racism. Bigotry. Misogyny. You as the privileged white male don't decide what hurts the victim; the victim does. You consider their pain.— BrianWilde (@BWildeCTV) February 20, 2015
Think before you speak. It's that simple. It's extremely important to consider the thoughts and feelings of others who are offended by a statement or action, rather than assuming they are being overly sensitive. It's not constructive in the least to suggest that they 'lighten up'. Everyone has a right to be offended, and until you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, you aren't able to fully understand what they've been through, or where they're coming from.
Simply put, by implying that being a girl somehow lessens an athlete's abilities is extremely insulting and offensive to half of the population. Women are extremely capable of athletic prowess, and have proven this to be true on numerous occasions. In fact, it was a year ago today that Team Canada's women's hockey team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Americans 3-2 in overtime in Sochi to win the Olympic gold medal for the third straight tournament. One would assume that these women understand the value of a strong work ethic.
Being female is not something to be ashamed of. By mocking femininity and sensitivity, you are doing a disservice to the entire population. Men are allowed to be vulnerable. Men are allowed to cry. Men are allowed to be fallible. These aren't female traits; they're HUMAN traits. Too much pressure is put on men to behave a certain way, and it contributes to a society in which a fraction of the male population feel it necessary to prove their power and dominance in destructive and potentially harmful ways.
Gender stereotypes are learned. It's not something that you're born with. There was a great Superbowl commercial that embodied this spirit perfectly.
Maybe if the Leafs actually played like girls, they wouldn't find themselves as perennial cellar dwellers in the standings.
Rielly has since apologized for his comments, remarking that the saying "has to be taken out of today's society." Kudos to Rielly for owning up to his mistake. Hopefully he's not the only one that learned something today.