In order to inject some new ideas into the blog, and hopefully relieve your boredom of always reading what I have to say, I’ve been asking some friends if they would like to contribute to path: ethic via guest posts. This is going to be an ongoing feature, and I hope you enjoy reading some new ideas and voices.
Today’s guest post is from Ray, who has been a practicing lawyer in Western New York state since 1985, a blogger since 2004, and married to the love of his life since 1987. He’s done other good stuff in this decade, too.
“Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”- NFL Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy, uttering his pre-game mantra to a generation of players and fans
Celebrity justice. It’s not what it is for you and me.
It’s bad enough to see politicians escape prosecution, some even getting rewarded with patronage positions when they get caught. It’s sickening to see musicians, comedians and film directors still being followed, paid, even honored by their peers after skating past charges ranging from domestic assault to rape. For me, though, the most appalling example is one that has been unfolding right here, right now, and it’s from that even bigger field of sacred cows known as professional sport.
Our nation has given us dozens of examples over the years: OJ Simpson’s acquittal of murder charges in the 90s, Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis’s complete avoidance of such charges in the following decade, and more recently, star football players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson facing little if any criminal action against them for admitted and/or indisputably photographed acts of domestic violence. But the right here, right now case we’ve been hearing about for most of the summer comes from the off-season world of ice hockey.
I’m a Buffalo Sabres fan—have been since moving here almost 35 years ago. On the whole, NHL players get into less trouble than their counterparts in other major sports; whether it’s a difference in the sports’ cultures, or just because the league has teams in outposts like Calgary and Winnipeg where there’s less trouble to get into, I can’t say. But one of professional hockey’s biggest stars—who has never played for the Sabres but grew up and lives off-season here—is now being investigated for rape. And the celebrity justice machine almost immediately began its march toward the blaming and shaming of the victim.
Some of the facts are not in dispute. The player in question is named Patrick Kane, and he plays for the Chicago Black Hawks, the team that won the Stanley Cup this past year. It’s a long-standing Cup tradition for every player on the winning team to get custody of the Cup for a day, to show it off as the literal trophy that it is—usually with a lot of bravado, and almost always with a lot of alcohol. Kane had been scheduled to host a party in a well-known local watering hole featuring the beloved hardware (which no Buffalo Sabre has ever won). The night before that scheduled event was when he met the eventual complainant and had his driver (an off-duty Buffalo cop) take them to his suburban mansion.
From there, as you might expect, versions differ. But within a week of the incident, the owner of the bar got front-page coverage in the only daily newspaper in this whole region, completely shaming the victim who came forward. The headline of the piece stated this, the first line larger than the second:
New details emerge in allegations against NHL star Patrick Kane
Alleged rape victim has bite marks, a scratch
And those details were confirmed by unnamed sources at the top of the piece. Yet local attention quickly turned to the allegations made later in the article by the owner of the venue—who picked up the “golddigger” trope and ran with it:
SkyBar’s owner, Mark Croce, told The Buffalo News on Saturday night that he has no way of knowing what happened between the woman and Kane at Kane’s home. He said he only knows Kane casually and has never been to his home.
But Croce told The News that he and several of his employees noticed a young woman “hanging all over” Kane at SkyBar for at least two hours that night, putting her hands on his arms and “being very forward, very flirtatious with him.” He said he does not know the woman and does not know her name.
“It was almost like she stationed herself near him and was keeping other women away from him,” Croce said. “I noticed it and kind of laughed about it.”
Ha. Ha. And ha.
Unmentioned in the paper’s coverage (but quickly recognized by one of the local commentators who condemned the victim-shaming) is that the bar owner could be liable to the victim, or run into trouble maintaining his liquor license, if it’s found that his bartenders served Kane while he was already intoxicated. So of course he has a reason to divert the attention of the investigation.
While the paper has been accused (rightly, I think) of contributing to this misogynistic coverage of a sex crime, there’s an even sadder component which it has (equally rightly) suppressed: virtually every story about the incident or its investigation, dozens of them over the past several weeks, have had online comments turned off from the get-go. I’m sure the editors are looking out for their own liability for what the paper’s horde of (mostly) angry (mostly) white (mostly) male but (almost entirely) anonymous commenters would almost certainly have done, if given free rein to play in that sandbox. I fully expected this woman would have been publicly identified, if not given the full Gamergate “doxxed and death-threat” treatment by now. Fortunately, that has not happened that I know of.
The most recent development is that a grand jury will be getting the case this month. Our local top prosecutor has a history of discouraging prosecutions that he feels he doesn’t have a slam-dunk chance of winning, but I’d like to think that if there’s a reasonable cross-section of this community in that grand jury room, which hasn’t been tainted by the shaming and won’t be discouraged by a discouraging DA, Celebrity Justice might, just this once, be overruled in favor of the real kind.