CHICAGO — The NHL suspended Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw for one game Wednesday for yelling an anti-gay slur from the penalty box and fined him $5,000 for an inappropriate gesture toward the officials during Chicago's Game 4 loss at home to the St. Louis Blues.
Shaw will miss Game 5 in St. Louis on Thursday, and he will be required to undergo sensitivity training, according to the NHL announcement that came only hours after he quietly apologized for his outburst the previous night.
Speaking moments before the team left for St. Louis, Shaw said he couldn't sleep after the game and watching video of his behaviour was difficult. It was video of the incident that went viral on social media, prompting sharp criticism and an NHL investigation.
'Emotions are high'
"It was hard to see. Emotions got the best of me," Shaw said, adding that he understands why the slur is considered hurtful. "I'll never use that word again, that's for sure. ... That's not the type of guy I am."
Shaw was sent off for interference at 17:56 of the third period, hurting Chicago's chance for a comeback in what ended up being a 4-3 loss that put the Stanley Cup champions on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. While sitting in the box, Shaw pounded on the glass with his stick and then yelled at someone on the ice. As video of the incident spread online, the You Can Play project swiftly tweeted that it was planning to contact the NHL.
After the game, Shaw was asked twice about what happened and said he didn't remember.
"Being like I just said — I'll repeat myself for you — emotions are high," said Shaw, who scored a goal and had two assists in the loss. "I don't know what was said. Obviously, I was upset with the call. I wasn't happy with the call."
A day later, Shaw said he saw the video after he returned home from the arena and said he was "sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made."
Team 'extremely disappointed'
"I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended," he said. "I know my words were hurtful and I will learn from my mistake."
The team said it was "extremely disappointed" by the incident. The team recently highlighted its partnership with You Can Play, which lobbies for equal and respectful treatment of all athletes without regard to sexual orientation. Defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson and goaltender Scott Darling participated in a video supporting the group's mission.
"Our team pledges to support all our coaches, teammates and fans," Darling says in the video. "We believe that athletes should be judged by their character, work ethic and talent, not their sexual orientation or gender identity."
A national television audience heard Kobe Bryant shout the same slur in 2011 at a referee he thought had made a bad call during a basketball game. Chicago Bulls centre Joakim Noah yelled it at a Miami Heat basketball fan who had been getting on him during a game a month later. Both quickly apologized, and the National Basketball Association hit them with large fines: Bryant was fined $100,000 and Noah $50,000.
Sacramento's Rajon Rondo was suspended one game in December for using the slur as he berated official Bill Kennedy, who subsequently came out as gay. Major League Baseball in 2014 suspended Yunel Escobar, then a shortstop with the Toronto Blue Jays, for stenciling the word, in Spanish, onto his eye black.
Like MLB, the NHL has never had an openly gay player. The founder of You Can Play, Patrick Burke, works in the NHL's player safety office. He has championed the LBGT cause and said earlier this year that he has met gay NHL players through the years. Burke declined comment Wednesday.
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