Let me contrast two organizations in this town. A month or so ago, a brilliantly researched and written piece about the Bears’ throwback jerseys by Jack Silverstein at Windy City Grid Iron pointed out the problems with said jerseys. That would be that they came from a time when black players were banned from the NFL, and how awkward it seemed that the Bears would not be wearing it. This caused the Bears themselves to address it head on in the week leading up to the game, releasing a video with several players commenting on the debate, problem, and why they felt it was important for them to wear the jerseys. For it being staged, I actually thought it was pretty well done. It certainly wasn’t the Bears hiding or skirting the issue, we can say that.
So, do you think the Hawks will be addressing this?
“Ortega, sounds like he should be a shortstop” instead of hockey
Fantastic subtle racism by @NHLBlackhawks and @NHLonNBCSports play by play Pat foley.
Cause we Latinos don’t hear this enough on the ice already
Now On #latinoheritagemonth@NHL workin hard to be inclusive again pic.twitter.com/iqgqVSX226
— Ghostchant (@ItsPronotRetail) September 30, 2019
I wouldn’t try to tell you this is the exact same thing. One is directly from the organization and one is something of an offhand remark by an announcer. But they come from the same place, and carry some of the same issues, and both can be damaging.
Believe me, I know all the arguments that are coming from the people who I would bet good money own a pair of Zubas or six. “It was just a joke.” “It’s Pat Foley, he’s old.” “Well, that does sound like a shortstops name!” Heard it all before, will hear it all again.
At the base of it, however innocent or off the cuff it was, it reinforces that if you have a Hispanic last name, hockey isn’t for you. You don’t belong. However softly it might do that, it still does that. Which seems like maybe not the best method of carrying out, “Hockey is for everyone.” Certainly, participation in hockey faces what we’ll call an uncertain future if they don’t engage with and get Hispanic kids involved. Also, the best player on the league’s signature team is Hispanic (Auston Matthews). Hockey is already seen, and often is, as a whites-only-and-keep-it-that-way. That doesn’t fly in this day and age.
Now, is this alone a fireable offense from Foley? I struggle to get there, but I could see where people might. I think an earnest apology on the next game broadcast would suffice, along with an acknowledgment from the Hawks themselves. The Hawks do a fair amount of outreach with minority communities here in town, and this would run counter to that and something they definitely should want to get out in front of to not undo any of that work. Though man would I want to be a fly on the wall with whatever team employee has to tell Foley to do this.
This would be an opportunity for the Hawks to stand out from the league again, on a very important issue. It could reinforce the work they’ve already done, if they handle it correctly.
While it may not warrant a dismissal on its own, as yet another piece of evidence in the case against Foley, it’s getting pretty pretty mountainous. And I reiterate, I grew up with Foley and Tallon on my headphones way past my bedtime broadcasting from Chicago Stadium. I know exactly what he means to Hawks fans, because he means that to me. Doesn’t mean I can ignore what’s gone on here the past few years.
The biggest complaint you get from everywhere is that Foley hasn’t been able to hide his displeasure with the team. Which is fine. We don’t want simple water-carriers in the booth (though that hasn’t stopped him and Edzo from doing just that in regards to certain players). Criticism is welcome and vital. But it goes beyond that when Foley makes it clear how much he’d rather be doing something else and how hard it is to watch this team.
Sure, we do that here, but it isn’t our job to sell the product at all. We’re supposed to tell you what we think. It’s all we do. And while that has a place in a broadcast, it can’t be all of it. Ask Len Kasper or Jason Benetti how you present a team that sucks in a fun way for the viewer. And they either do it or had to do it every damn day.
Add to that Foley is usually behind the play, or misidentifying everyone, or just grab-assing it with Olczyk, and you get a pretty unlistenable broadcast. This is the Hawks, it’s a job most every up-and-coming play-by-play guy would remove a digit or two for.
Everyone loses the fastball. Throw some casual racism on this pile, and what you’re left with is something the Hawks simply don’t need anymore, and could enhance. It’s time.