Vulgar Opinions: Rochester Amerks, You Can Play, And The Kiss Cam
For those of you that don’t know, the You Can Play Project was founded by Patrick Burke, the brother of the late Brendan Burke, a well known and well liked out gay manager for the Miami RedHawks hockey team as a tribute to Brendan after his death in a 2010 car accident. I might be biased here, but I think the Amerks’ spot is one of the better ones:
It’s a great thing for the Amerks to be a part of and I applaud them for their efforts. What these videos do is spotlight how hockey teams approach and empathize with the LGBT community. That spotlight is usually positive, but it can occasionally raise some questions as it did last night.
The Amerks are one of many teams that uses a ‘Kiss Cam’ as in game entertainment, showing couples in the crowd with the hopes that they’ll showboat a little for cheers. Unfortunately up until last night, the Amerks were also one of many teams to feature the ‘joke’ where two members of the opposing team are shown on the Kiss Cam. While not the worst in anti-gay actions, the message here is that the team’s opponents, the team’s enemy, might share an intimate moment between men and that makes them weak or laughable or whatever. At the very best, it’s a dumb joke for cheap laughs that makes a segment of the crowd uncomfortable. (And if you don’t think there are LGBT fans in the crowd, you’re kidding yourself.)
In itself, it’s lame, an ‘eye-roll’ moment, but coupled with the You Can Play video released literally the day before, it makes the organization look pretty dumb and unaware. That’s what annoyed me the most about the whole incident, the sheer lack of thoughtlessness that allowed it to occur. So I sent the following letter to the Amerks’ Director of Public Relations and Marketing and Community Relations Manager last night:
Mr. Rob Crean, Ms. Jessica Baldwin,
I was somewhat surprised to hear that the Rochester Amerks continued a popular Kiss Cam “joke” during Wednesday’s game that featured denigrating two opposing players by showing them on the Kiss Cam, as though men kissing is something worthy of ridicule. This comes just a day after the Amerks released a video for the You Can Play Project which is dedicated to ending homophobia in sports (and I believe a period after airing said video in the arena for the first time). I’m sure you can understand the confusion coming from many fans in response to these conflicting incidents.
For me, the Amerks fostering a culture of bullying in their arena strips away much of the good will the You Can Play video may have gained them. The message to LGBT in attendance seems to be, “we’ll ridicule you.” Now, I would imagine that the incident wasn’t intentional and was likely the result of a videographer that just didn’t know any better (which is a little sad in itself). Thus while I am disappointed with the lowbrow play for laughs, what really strikes me is how dumb and unaware the organization looks with these two incidents (the YCP video and the Kiss Cam) sitting back to back.
I’m not out for blood, but I think the Amerks make a strong and inclusive statement if they cut the Kiss Cam antics and make a public apology.
Alexander S. Bauer
It’s a difficult line to walk in these situations because such incidents are definitely disappointing and they can have a profound impact on LGBT youth, but at the same time I don’t believe there was ever any malicious intent on the part of the Amerks. Most often these are things that have become ingrained in our culture and they don’t inspire much thought until they simply do.
Rob Crean returned my e-mail this morning and left his office number for me to call, which I did. His e-mail was brief, so I wasn’t sure where to really begin the conversation. As luck would have it my first call went to voicemail, so I left him a message outlining that at the very least I needed someone to explain to me why the Amerks think the stunt is funny and/or okay.
When Rob and I did eventually connect, I opened up by saying that I believed his statement that the intent was not malicious and said that I know it’s not even specific to the Amerks, that a lot of teams use that particular gag. He agreed and reiterated that it wasn’t done maliciously and that it was just something that no one in the Amerks had thought about until now. And let me be clear about something right now: that’s okay. Would I prefer to have had them think about it yesterday, or a year ago or ten? Sure, but they didn’t, and that’s not an indictment, it’s an opportunity to have that conversation right now.
Rob said something that I really didn’t expect to hear, (paraphrasing) “I can see where you’re coming from and I can see how that would be poorly received.” When Phil and I brought up concerns over the Sabres’ partnership with the anti-LGBT Salvation Army neither Ted Black nor the Sabres’ Director of Community Relations Rich Jureller ever said that. Whether they even tried to look at things from an LGBT person’s point of view, I do not know.
Rob did that, and assured me that the Amerks will put the Kiss Cam ‘Gay Gag’ to rest in the future. That’s a great and classy move by both Rob and the Amerks and I commend them for it.
While I had Rob on the phone, I asked him about the logistics in producing the You Can Play video, specifically how the process went from an idea to participate to the finish project that we got on Tuesday. I’ve seen a few fans eager for You Can Play videos and I thought it would help to know a little bit more about how things progress, that’s it’s not at simple as ‘we want to do it – here it is.’
The AHL evidently reached out to any teams that wanted to participate in the You Can Play Project, so it was a conscious decision by the Amerks that this is something they support and wanted to be a part of.
That said, with a hectic schedule, the filming is the hardest part, especially since there is a certain look present in each video that requires some preparation. The original piece was apparently shot about a month ago, but had to be edited with the departure of Ron Rolston and the insertion of Chadd Cassidy.