Another Cancel Culture Episode In Canada

A retired pro hockey player accused the NHL’s Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters of calling him a “nigger” a decade ago when Peters was coaching him on a minor league team, the Rockford Ice Hogs, an affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Peters apologized in a letter to the Flames management after the allegations, and two days later was  forced to resign.

The Nigeria-born  player, Akim Aliu, wrote on Twitter  that when he was playing for a minor league team a decade ago, Peters, who is white, “dropped the N bomb several times toward me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.” Aliu further said that he “rebelled” against the coach as a result of the episode,, and that Peters retaliated by advising executives to demote Aliu to a lower-level league. The National Hockey League reacted with a statement saying that Peters’s alleged behavior was “repugnant and unacceptable.” The Flames immediately opened an investigation into Aliu’s allegations.

In a letter of apology, Peters wrote in part, “I was rightfully challenged about my use of language, and I immediately returned to the dressing room to apologize to the team. I have regretted the incident since it happened, and I now also apologize to anyone negatively affected by my words.”

Aliu, who played briefly with  the Flames, in  2012 and 2013, refused to accept the letter as sincere. There are, by my count, about 28 black or bi-racial players in the NHL, or a bit fewer than one a team on average.

There is so much I don’t understand about this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

  • Yesterday Aliu met with NHL brass yesterday. Afterward, he told the press, “They couldn’t have been kinder and receptive to the message that we’re trying to bring. I think there’s just some big change coming and it’s long overdue, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.” Wait, who is “they”? The NHL released a statement too:

  • Akim Aliu is being called a whistleblower.  If so, that was one slow whistle.

How does reporting an incident that took place ten years ago, in a different league, qualify as whistle-blowing in the NHL?

  • Were there other allegation against the Flames coach in his current job? Did he have a long record of bigotry and mistreating players? If this one late hit by Aliu about what happened with the <cough> Ice Hogs is really the whole thing, why did Aliu act now?

His Wikipedia entry describes him as something of a trouble-maker. Was this just vengeance for a his mistreatment for a decade ago?

  • Does it really make sense to fire someone for what he said, with a different employer, that long ago, no matter what it was? Does this mean that Peters can never work again, and will have to wander the world, starving, begging, without friends or shelter? If a statement—not a crime, mind you, but just words, ugly as they may have been— made ten years ago is sufficient to make a man unemployable and a permanent pariah, then why not 20 years ago? Is our enlightened society now concluding that no one can change, or improve, or learn, and a single moment of anger or bad judgment justifying shunning him or her for life?

If I write that this seems cruel and excessive and indeed unethical to me, does that make me racist too?

My usual question as I enter ethical conundrums is “What’s going on here?” In this case, I have no idea, but I doubt that it’s good.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2018: The Baseball-Trained Rifleman, The Hockey Hero Accountant, And Some Other Stuff That’s Just Annoying…

Good morning!

1. “The Rifleman” and “Fix the problem.” I recently was interviewed by a graduate student in organizational leadership and ethics. One thing we discussed was how popular culture in America once dedicated itself to teaching ethical values and ethics problem-solving, especially in shows aimed at young audiences. This is not so true any more; indeed, popular culture models unethical conduct at least as often today.

I told my interviewer about recently watching an episode of “The Rifleman,” the early ’60s TV Western about a single father raising his young son while being called upon to use his skill with a rifle to fight for civilization in the harsh frontier.  In the episode, hero Lucas McCain (played by the under-rated Chuck Connors) had to deal with an old friend, now an infamous outlaw, who had come to town. (The ethical conflict between personal loyalty and an individual’s  duty to society was a frequent theme in Westerns.) Lucas was a part-time deputy, and at the climax of the episode, his friend-gone-bad is prepared to ride out of town to escape arrest for his latest crime. Lucas tells him not to leave, and that if he tries to escape, Lucas will have to let his custom-made rifle settle the matter, as usual. (Peace-loving Lucas somehow managed to kill over a hundred men during the run of the series.)  Smirking, his friend (Richard Anderson, later known as the genius behind “The Six Million Dollar Man”), says that he knows his old friend is bluffing. For Lucas owes him a lifetime debt: he once saved “The Rifleman’s” life.  You’re a good man and a fair man, the villain says. “You won’t shoot me. I know you.” Then he mounts his horse , and with a smiling glance back at “The Rifleman,” who is seemingly paralyzed by the ethical conflict, starts to depart. Now his back is all Lucas has to shoot at, doubling the dilemma.  You never shoot a man in the back, an ethical principle that the two officers who killed Stephon Clark somehow missed. We see McCain look at his deadly rifle, then again at the receding horseman. Then, suddenly, he hurls his rifle, knocking his friend off his horse. The stunned man is arrested by the sheriff, and says, lamely, as he’s led away. “I knew you wouldn’t shoot me.”

I love this episode. It teaches that we have to seek the best solution available when we face ethics conflicts, and that this often requires rejecting the binary option presented to us, and finding a way to fix the problem.

Of course, it helped that Chuck Connors used to play for the Dodgers, and could hurl that rifle with the accuracy of Sandy Koufax.

2. Here we go again! Now that anti-gun hysteria is again “in,” thanks to the cynical use of some Parkland students to carry the anti-Second Amendment message without having to accept the accountability adults do when they make ignorant, dishonest, and illogical arguments in public, teachers and school administrators are back to chilling free speech and expression by abusing their students with absurd “no-tolerance” enforcement. At North Carolina’s Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School, for example, a 13-year-old boy in the seventh grade was suspended for two days for drawing  a stick figure holding a gun.

I drew pictures like this—well, I was little better at it—well into my teens. It’s a picture. It isn’t a threat. It isn’t anything sinister, except to hysterics and fanatics without a sense of perspective or proportion—you know, the kind of people who shouldn’t be trusted to mold young minds. “Due to everything happening in the nation, we’re just being extra vigilant about all issues of safety,” said Sampson County Schools’ Superintendent Eric Bracy, an idiot. How does punishing a boy for a drawing make anyone safer? It makes all of us less safe, by pushing  us one step closer to government censorship of speech and thought.

Then we have Zach Cassidento, a high school senior at Amity High Regional School in Connecticut who was suspended and arrestedarrested!—for posting a picture of his birthday gift, an Airsoft gun, on Snapchat. He was not charged, but was suspended for a day from school….for posting, outside of school, on his personal account, the picture of an entirely legal toy gun (It shoots plastic pellets: my son has several of them).

The people who do this kind of thing to children in violation of their rights as Americans are the same people who cheer on David Hogg while signing factually and legally ridiculous petitions. They should not be permitted to teach, and this kind of conduct ought to be punished.

Where is the ACLU? For the organization not to attack these abuses is an abdication of the organization’s mission. Continue reading