The politicians who ganged up on Doan

G&M - "excuser sans preuve"...

It's despicable to make an ethnic slur, but it's equally despicable to accuse someone of making one without proof. A witch-hunt mentality has arisen in Ottawa over an alleged anti-francophone slur made by Shane Doan, the captain of Canada's hockey team at the World Championships in Russia. Mr. Doan was investigated by the National Hockey League soon after the December, 2005, incident. The league cleared him. But there are cheap political points to be scored, and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and NDP Leader Jack Layton all skated gleefully in to score them in the House of Commons this week, saying Mr. Doan is a bad choice as captain. They were offside, all of them. Shamefully so.
The NHL deserves a large portion of the blame, however. It has harmed Mr. Doan through its obstinacy and arrogance. The entire ruckus is an object lesson in how serious allegations, if not challenged and dispelled in an open and reasonably prompt manner, will become as fixed in the public mind as if they were proven true.
Here is what Gary Meagher, the league's vice-president of public relations, said yesterday about what the NHL found on the facts. "We don't take the readers inside our investigations and give them a blow-by-blow of what happens in a disciplinary hearing. Those are internal matters."
Internal matters? How can it be an internal matter when a player of Mr. Doan's stature (or anyone else, for that matter) is publicly accused of uttering an ethnic slur? Is the public on which the league relies for its $2-billion a year in revenue supposed to take the NHL's word that all is well? Has the NHL never heard of transparency and accountability? The league itself, by sticking its head in the sand (or perhaps the ice), has perpetuated the racism charge against Mr. Doan.
It's a matter of public record that an official at that 2005 game between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens gave Mr. Doan a 10-minute gross misconduct at the game's end. It's a matter of record that the official, Michel Cormier, reported to the league that Mr. Doan said from approximately one foot away, "Fucking French did a good job." (All four on-ice officials that night were francophones.) It's a matter of record that the referee took the alleged comment as an insult. The NHL cannot pretend the public record does not exist; it needs to address it publicly.
Mr. Doan says he said no such thing. He has spoken with impressive eloquence in his defence. "I'd rather you call me the worst hockey player in the world and say that I don't deserve to be on the team." He also said: "Anybody that does any type of investigation into it would realize I never said it. And yet, they can just throw it out in the House of Commons? Those are our leaders. Those are the people that we're supposed to look to."
The allegation against Mr. Doan, while never effectively dispelled, remains unproven. With little regard for the individual in question, or the truth of the matter, political leaders have delivered vicious elbow shots to Mr. Doan's character in pursuit of a few votes in Quebec. The country would be better off if the politicians left hockey decisions to the hockey team.

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