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BBG At Blogger Summit II: Digging Into My Show-Closer

01/13/12
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Blogger Summit 2: Electric Boogaloo happened on Wednesday, much to the delight of a twice-as-large crowd as compared to the first summit. Broadcast alternatives, reasons to give a damn, throwing the Amerks a bone, and more came up in the hour-long chat with team president Ted Black. Get down to the nitty gritty after the jump!


I’m a couple of days late with my recap of the event, so I won’t bore you with details from every question and every response. I posted the audio so you can listen for yourselves. That way, I can delve into my question that closed out the chat – that of the Buffalo Sabres’ holiday season affiliation with the Salvation Army and why it troubled LGBT and LGBT friendly fans.

I brought to Ted’s attention that some fans in the gay community were uneasy about the Sabres being affiliated with the Salvation Army, due to the charitable organization’s discriminatory practices toward the LGBT world. If you’re unfamiliar with their attempts at discrimination, I’ll go ahead and give you the heads up.

In 2001, the Salvation Army sought “a change in distribution regulations for the $24 billion in new federal grants and tax deductions for charitable institutions requested by President George W. Bush. The alteration would have denied funds to state and municipal governments if they imposed restrictions on anti-gay hiring practices such as are practiced within the Salvation Army.” Needless to say, the group trying to use public money to twist the arms of local governments into practicing anti-LGBT hiring practices like they themselves adhered to caused a huge ruckus. It caused the White House to denounce the change the church wanted.

In 2004, anti-discrimination laws in place in New York City but not enforced were set to be applied to any businesses that work with the city, Salvation Army included. In response to the ordinance that would force them to provide benefits to employees in same-sex relationships, they threatened to close all soup kitchens and shops operating within the Big Apple’s borders unless the City Council granted them an exemption. It was not granted, but Mayor Bloomberg (spinelessly, in my opinion) chose not to enfore the ordinance.

Most people don’t know the Salvation Army operates in such a way. I certainly didn’t either, until it was brought to my attention by BBG’s resident stats guru, Alex. As I said on Twitter, I don’t like mixing my personal politics with my hockey writing, but this was a situation that compelled me to act. I believe the gay rights movement is our generation’s own civil rights movement, a paradigm shift in the way an entire portion of the populace is treated as a whole. Part of that is the LGBT community being granted certain rights the rest of American society already enjoys, like the benefits that come from marriage (Apparently Washington state is next up? Good job!). Part of it is businesses no longer affiliating with discriminatory organizations because it isn’t the right thing to do. From the Sabres’ standpoint, it’s about more than just doing the right thing – it’s about being true to the city that’s name is scrawled across the chest on their uniform.

When I broached the topic to Ted Black, the surprise at my claims was obvious and genuine on Ted Black’s face. To boil down his response, he said to the assembled bloggers that while he had only been made briefly aware of the Salvation Army’s dealings earlier that morning if through the course of his own research the allegations were proven true the Salvation Army would not be allowed back inside First Niagara Center. He then told the group in as many words that the Buffalo Sabres do not discriminate. That goes with not associating with discriminatory groups either.

After the chat, while we walked toward the new dressing room, Ted caught up with me and we spoke for a brief few minutes about my question. He thanked me for asking the question and we bantered a bit about the issue. Even though Ted has strived to be as transparent an executive as he can be, I was afraid my inquiry would have been brushed off to be dealt with by PR. It was a confrontational moment, worded as diplomatically as possible. In my head, I was asking “So, Ted, what the hell is up with the Salvation Army and the Sabres? Lemme tell you about the stunts they’ve pulled”.

Given that the bell ringers only appear around the holidays, I won’t be following-up my question too dilligently for now. Expect something from either myself or Alex on the topic sometime in summer if the Sabres don’t already say something about it before hand.

Both stories about the Salvation Army’s conduct were culled from the organization’s Wikipedia page because by the time I finished this, it was 12:15AM and I didn’t want to do the manual research. For external sources, use the page’s reference links to your heart’s content.

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