Suspending Kane prior to charges being filed would be dangerous precedent

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Ask yourself this question: Do you want to live in a world where accusations carry the same weight as a criminal charge?

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/09/2015 (2696 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ask yourself this question: Do you want to live in a world where accusations carry the same weight as a criminal charge?

That’s the situation facing the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL and its fans.

Patrick Kane is going to attend Blackhawks training camp and this news has quickly become one of the most polarizing issues around the NHL.

Chris O'Meara / The Associated Press Files Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane

Kane is being investigated for sexual assault and a grand jury is expected to reconvene in the coming weeks. Kane, the Hawks and the NHL have determined training camp is the best place for him to be right now. A lot of others think it’s the absolute worst decision for the team and the NHL.

From Kane’s perspective, he hasn’t been charged with anything and he’d like to continue living his life as such. He’s not locked up, so why not go to work?

The other side of the issue is he’s been accused of a violent crime. There is a real person who has gone to police with a criminal complaint. The allegations are serious and the accuser’s rights need to also be considered.

The NHL has the power to suspend Kane for being the subject of a criminal investigation, as set out by the CBA in article 18-A.5 Criminal Investigation:

“A Player subject to Commissioner Discipline for Off-Ice Conduct may seek a reasonable delay in such proceedings in order to retain and seek the advice of counsel in the event his conduct may also be subject to a criminal investigation by any governmental authority, or in the event of an ongoing civil proceeding where the Player has been named as a defendant. The League may suspend the Player pending the League’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”

None of us, other than Kane and his accuser, have any idea about his guilt or innocence.

Does Kane have the right to be at training camp? In our society, he does.

Is it the right thing? Is it tone-deaf for him to be skating in an NHL uniform while he’s the subject of a criminal investigation? All good questions.

The NHL insists it doesn’t need a “cookie cutter” code of conduct policy and it’s better for the league to deal with these issues on a case-by-case basis.

I spoke with Calgary Flames president Brian Burke Thursday morning. Burke is a lawyer, has been an agent, a league executive, a GM and in a previous life, a player.

He’s uniquely positioned for a take on this.

Here’s his view on how the NHL is handling Kane.

“If you were accused but not charged of sexual assault, would you be allowed to go work tomorrow? Yes, you would. And if your employer tried to prevent you from doing so, you would win the grievance,” said Burke.

“People say they want cookie-cutter justice, but it’s not possible. It’s like a shoe store. You don’t walk in and they just hand you a pair of shoes. You have to get measured and talk about style and colour etc. You have to take into account the severity of the crime, the evidence that’s available and any number of issues. The player has the right to due process. Cookie-cutter is impossible. I applaud what the league is trying to accomplish.”

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Files Bombers G.M. Kyle Walters: improving team

Until Kane is charged, this is an accusation. Accusations should be taken seriously and investigated. Players charged with a criminal offence, one as serious as sexual assault, shouldn’t be allowed to play. They should be suspended.

But to suspend at the accusation stage is a dangerous precedent to set in the NHL or any workplace.

A win for Walters

One of the most promising trends we’re seeing from Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters is the ability to check his ego, admit mistakes and then move forward to improve his team.

Three weeks ago, the Blue Bombers had arguably the worst outlook at quarterback of any team in the CFL but today. they have all their bases covered.

Walters and his management team overvalued backups Robert Marve and Brian Brohm, which became all too obvious when Drew Willy was forced out of the lineup due to a broken leg.

Marve and Brohm immediately proved incapable of running a CFL offence and winning games. Maybe Marve would have improved with a little more playing time, but even that was a long shot and then he suffered a season-ending injury.

The cupboard was bare and the Bombers were desperate.

Rather than sticking with a previous decision and sinking the Bombers’ season, Walters responded by getting veteran Matt Nichols in one trade and acquiring prospect Tajh Boyd in another.

Players in the locker-room were starving for a quarterback to believe in and Nichols gave this roster immediate hope. His professionalism and leadership have made the Bombers a completely different team.

Now the Bombers have a legit starter in Willy, a top-end backup in Nichols and two intriguing prospects in Boyd and Dominique Davis. If Walters can keep this group together long-term, the Bombers may have solved all their quarterback issues for several seasons.

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