VAUGHAN: CTV’s Jessica Allen’s comments disrupt broader dialogue by stereotyping hockey players

Bullying dialogue needs to be more nuanced, communal and fair

Jessica Allen of CTV’s The Social was wrong to paint hockey players as all white-skinned bullies, which is too bad because it prevented us from having a nuanced look at the culture of bullying in sports.

Last week, Allen responded to the ongoing Don Cherry social media debate on The Social saying she doesn’t “worship at the altar of hockey”; that hockey players “all tended to be white boys who weren’t, let’s say, very nice”; and that the players “they were not generally thoughtful, they were often bullies.”

This is a broad brush that is hurtful to thousands of working families across this country who register their children in sports like hockey in order to teach them adult skills like leadership, teamwork, sportsmanship, and fair play.

Indeed, most kids playing hockey are just that — kids, and they deserve kindness and the benefit of the doubt in most circumstances and Allen was flat out wrong to accuse all of them of being bullies. She has since apologized for her comments and Canadians, like they were with Cherry, are split along party lines on whether she should be removed from her position.

What Allen’s voicing her ephemeral views and personal cherry-picked experiences prevented is a broader dialogue of how bullying plays into competitive sports environments.

Here’s the thing, bullying exists in the hockey world, just like it exists in basketball, baseball, soccer, dance, the office space and pretty much anywhere else that more than three humans gather.

In toxic sports situations, which are by no means the norm, hazing and frat culture are concerning problems that require nuanced, diverse and thoughtful discussions and solutions.

Bullying, as many people know, is extremely hurtful and lives within a person’s heart long after the event has passed. As many people expressed online in the last week, victims of bullying remember their childhood abusers with astonishing clarity.

What this ongoing hurt requires is healing and progressive dialogue— not accusation.

Not all hockey players are bullies. It’s not even close. A small group of people within the hockey world, the basketball world, the soccer world, the office world and the dance world engage in bully behaviour and it is on the rest of us to not be complicit.

By not speaking up when we know something is not right; we allow stereotypes to be perpetuated.

Hockey, and every other sport, is a great way to teach your kids how to be a leader, how to stick up for your friends and how to win and lose gracefully.

It is important that the focus remains on reinforcing the good in sport and expelling the toxic.

All social gatherings — on the ice, on the hardwood, in the office or online — carry the potential for abuse. It is important to call out the perpetrators and celebrate the people championing kindness, compassion, and teamwork.

Hockey players are not bullies. Bullies are bullies.

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