Comments / New

Benn, Seguin, and Offensive Apathy

Recently, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin appeared on a Dallas-based sports radio show for an interview. At some point, the subject of Jamie’s brother Jordie came up, which led to a discussion about the Sedins. The snippet can be found here.

The implication made by the two players is that the Sedins are creepy and weird, and that they must be having sex with each other. Furthermore, the comments were laced with a derogatory undertone – not that such a thing is necessary to make the comments bad, but the tone was there, both from the radio hosts and the two players.

If you need context on why this is a bad joke, I suggest reading about all of the people that conflate incest and homosexuality as similar wrongs – or reading about the supposed “slippery slope” from homosexuality to polygamy and incestuous marriage. This is a perception that queer people have fought for as long as they have existed. If you need further reason to distance yourself from these jokes, look at the bad reply to the linked tweet.

I have noticed a desire to excuse these players, which I suppose is understandable. People enjoy Jamie and Tyler and would like to continue enjoying them. I get it. I don’t think anyone should have to throw their fandom away over these comments, though I would also understand if someone were so hurt by comments similar to these that they were tempted to do such a thing.

One excuse tied to these comments is that the hosts led them down the path to making them. I don’t like this argument. Regardless of the intention of the hosts — which, surely, was exactly that — the players are in control of their thoughts, words, and laughter. The hosts did not hand them a script to read off of, most likely, and the hosts did not force them to say anything. The hosts also did not imply that the Sedins are incestuous or gay. That was entirely on the players.

Another point made by some is that players probably say worse on the ice, and I have little doubt that this is true. Players probably say nasty, horrific things to each other on the ice. The game is likely filled with homophobic and otherwise disgusting jabs.

I also don’t see the relevance to this situation. Stuff said on the ice almost always stays on the ice – unless you’re Milan Lucic in a handshake line. It doesn’t become an affront to fans of the game, where queer people and otherwise marginalized groups have a larger and larger impact on hockey’s landscape. These comments did enter the public’s eye, and it’s worth noting that this is not Tyler Seguin’s first foray into the public sphere with oppressive behavior. In fact, we know that the president of You Can Play has talked with him about his hurtful language. Ultimately, the hope we have when things like these arise is that people learn from their mistakes and grow. Seguin, so far, has not done that.

Jamie Benn was the one that actually implied that the Sedins have sex when they room on the road, so perhaps you are wont to dismiss Seguin’s involvement. However, the segment continued on and both players reaffirmed the joke by laughing and calling the Sedins creepy and weird. I don’t see any particular reason to separate the two in my head in this instance.

Some people have shown frustration with the outcry in reaction to these comments because, “they’re just not that bad!” and so on. While people saying that about these comments are not entirely wrong, they’re also missing the point. Saying, “I wasn’t offended,” or, “this didn’t bother me,” is derailing. The people saying those things are, for the most part, straight. Basically, this reaction isn’t about you, and these comments don’t threaten your comfort. Your apathy toward them is offensive to affected people.

You don’t have to be offended personally (I’m not personally offended, for instance) to understand how these words hurt other people. By saying that you are not offended, you are shifting the conversation away from people who are hurt to yourself, when you do not matter in this case. You are privileged in that if you don’t care, your enjoyment of the game is not affected at all. If you have the tiniest bit of empathy, use it to understand why this matters to the people it matters to. If you sincerely aren’t offended, then I suggest staying mum. If you don’t care, why comment?

These comments are not the end of the world. With that said, comments don’t have to be the worst thing that have ever happened to be hurtful. A cut might not hurt as much as a broken bone, but it still hurts. The hope here is that Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (again, unfortunately) use their mistakes here to grow. I don’t think there should be any serious punishment for the players, but I don’t think it is at all unfair to suggest that they issue a sincere public apology and vow to be better in the future.

We talk a lot about being a welcoming community. However, when we are faced with unwelcoming actions, we search for reasons to excuse them. There isn’t one.

Talking Points