New Jersey Devils "forward" Cam Janssen certainly put himself out there as of late. For the unaware, Janssen did an interview on the Thom & Jeff Show, an uncensored podcast featuring two former radio guys. The 14 minute interview was filled with obscenities and most notably a comparison of the Los Angeles Kings as "fat broads," an admission that he tries to injure players as a form of intimidation, and a response to a host bringing up whether a player has had oral sex with a man is fair grounds for trash-talking with, "Oh, if he's sucking [expletive], then he's definitely getting his [expletive] kicked." It was as bad as it sounds. If you haven't heard it, Travis Hughes has the video of the whole interview at the SBN NHL hub. (The Thom & Jeff Show pulled it off their YouTube account when it got attention.) It's definitely NSFW for obscene language. But if you haven't heard it, then there it is.
Yesterday, I wrote a reaction post to what I felt were the two worst parts: the "intent to injure" explanation and his line of literal gay bashing. I said that the interview provided evidence that Janssen may be just terrible in addition to being a terrible hockey player. That got a heavy reaction as well as discussions that went off the rails for rationales I'm not getting into. I said my piece and the reaction to that ranged from agreement to disagreement to outrage that I would point either line out and say he's terrible for it. Clearly, there's more that needs to be discussed - and more that I need to clarify.
Today, Cam Janssen issued a statement of apology. For some, that's the end of the issue. I can't quite agree. I think the interview had more that's worth discussing beyond what I highlighted. Of course, there's the apology itself to discuss. Most of all, I want to bring up the larger reasons why I think Janssen's interview is a big deal and not something to just ignore because it happened in mid-July. All of this will come after the jump.
POINTS FROM THE INTERVIEW I DIDN'T BRING UP THEN BUT WILL NOW
First off, there was the opening where Janssen compared the Kings to "fat broads that you just regret banging." I didn't bring it up then, user TheTrapezoidConspiracy pointed out that I should. My response then was that I while I agreed, I was more concerned with the quotes I brought up. But the user was right. It was a stupid thing to say. I can agree he was led into that; but Cam Janssen is an adult and could have steered the conversation elsewhere. It was a crude metaphor and one he really didn't have any right making since I had as much ice time in that Stanley Cup Finals as he did.
Second, I should have given Janssen a sliver a credit for his candidness, as stupid and shortsighted as it may be. He revealed that his role isn't the sort-of heroic protector of the better players. He didn't go out there and say his job is to be some guy to do the work others won't do. He was very plain in stating his job is to try and intimidate. He trains with other goons. He knows he's got to do what he can to have a longer career to avoid being "punch drunk." This is not what you normally hear in an interview with any player. I didn't bring it up yesterday because I didn't want to send a mixed message. I'm wasn't happy with him after hearing the interview; this praise is just that - a sliver.
Third, I think Cam Janssen may need some help. Tom
was likely being a contrarian in bringing it up, but he (he wasn't being contrarian, sorry Tom) raised a good point that may have got lost from the Janssen interview. Janssen stated that he feels depressed when he's not around the rink at about 12:59 into the video. I don't know how serious he was in saying that; but he definitely wasn't joking nor was he prodded by the hosts. Janssen has to learn to deal with not being in hockey one day eventually. If he truly feels depressed about being away from the rink, then he's got to at least consider seeking some outside help with that for his own sake.
Fourth, as much as I brought up what a terrible player Janssen has been and will likely continue to be to juxtapose with what he said, I failed to highlight his situation on the team. Janssen did re-sign with the Devils on a two-way contract where he's making just above the league minimum at the NHL level. He was not given a two-way deal just for kicks. It means the Devils want to have the option to send him down and save some money if it comes to that. He does not have a lot of leeway on this team. If anyone's got a reason to be as good of a guy as possible and not do anything dumb, then it's going to be the guy who could easily be sent packing to the AHL. That he went on this show and said what he said just furthers how stupid this all was. Janssen is not an irreplaceable or even a moderately talented player. He may have apologized, but it shouldn't be a surprise if he's on a really short leash now. It also makes me wonder that if a fringe player carries on like this, then what of a "safer" player?
REACTIONS TO REACTIONS TO REACTIONS
I'm not going to at full length and call certain people out for various responses to this post and the video as a whole. For the unaware, the reactions were all over the place among Devils fans. Some denounced Cam Janssen like myself. Others felt it was no big deal. Others feigned surprise since Janssen is just a "meathead" or a "goon." Others didn't disagree but made it clear they didn't want to demonize Janssen. Others are shocked that a Devils fan would ever criticize a Devil, much less the Cam Janssen. So let me make myself clearer than I was
I can understand if you don't believe Janssen is a bigot based on one comment in an interview. However, it is undeniable that he said something that is bigoted. I cannot help you if you cannot understand how saying "Ah, if he's sucking [expletive], then he's definitely getting his [expletive] kicked," is a bigoted statement. I can understand if you think Janssen, Thom, and Jeff were just speaking off the cuff about the Kings. I also cannot help you if you cannot understand that saying "They're the fat broads that you regret bangin', and I've been there and done that." about the team that defeated the Devils for the championship is dumb thing to say.
As far as Janssen's explanation as to how he tries to intimidate players by saying, "No, I'm going to catch you with your [expletive] head down and hurt you because you're not going to know I'm coming 'cause I can hit too," I can help you if you don't get why that's a terrible admission. You need to read this post by Ellen Etchingham at Backhand Shelf. In fact, I think you should read it even if you do get it. It's one of the more important posts out there to read. She fully explains the folly of goons better than I could or did while explaining why that quote from Janssen was such a horrible statement. Be forewarned, she uses quite a bit of profanity herself, but it's not like, say, Janssen's interview.
Anyway, let's get back to the interview fallout. It is critical to point out that Cam Janssen said all of this himself. He was not forced into it by Thom or Jeff, or to be on the show. He was not under some kind of thought control that made him say what he said. Cam Janssen is an adult and he is responsible for what he said for better or worse. He is just as responsible about saying the Kings were like fat broads or that he goes out and tries to hurt people or that he needs to beat up somebody for being gay regardless of whether the host brought it up or whether he did it himself. It doesn't matter whether you think he's a meathead or a dumb jock or a goon or led on by the hosts or whatever. They're excuses as weak as the competition Janssen regularly plays against. Cam Janssen is responsible for his own words.
Now, in my original post, I said that I didn't think Janssen was the worst being in hockey for this interview. He didn't break anyone's neck out of anger. He didn't throw intentional headshots or spend a career slewfooting guys. He didn't even kill anyone. However, that doesn't mean I or anyone else can't or shouldn't call out stupid, terrible statements as stupid and terrible. To say that this is the result of a bored media or that it's only a July 12 story aren't a valid excuses either. The date and mindset of the media doesn't change the content of what he said nor does it mean it's not something to bring up.
Lastly, yes, we criticize players and the team we all support here at ILWT. So do most fans. I'm sorry that my post yesterday wasn't ideal. I'm not sorry for calling out Janssen. I'm also not sorry for not pumping sunshine. Just because a guy is in the Devils organization doesn't mean he is above criticism. I'm not going to get into their personal lives, but when a player says or does something in public that's deplorable and detrimental to the team, then we're going to say so. Deal with it.
The big news regarding Janssen is that he issued a statement of apology. Here's the text from the Devils' official website:
"Earlier this week, I participated in an internet-based radio show in which I used some poor judgment which I now regret. The New Jersey Devils were unaware of this interview, which I arranged myself.
"I would like to apologize for my poor choice of language. The tone of the interview was very casual and off-color, and I lost focus on what is and is not acceptable and professional. I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language. Moving forward, I hope to eliminate that type of language from my vocabulary. I would also like to take this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing, and for the gay community in general.
"I apologize for the embarrassment my comments have caused to the New Jersey Devils management, as well as my teammates."
This statement was the correct course of action. It was swift, it was concise, it's not a complete non-apology, and he clearly had someone else write it because the interview revealed that Janssen may not be a words guy. He clearly has got in touch with You Can Play based on their statement. It's also clear to me that the team has sent him a clear message about how bad this was. It's no accident the second sentence highlights the fact that the team had no idea about the interview and the last one is a specific apology to the organization. After all, he did embarrass the Devils. So overall, I think statement of apology was a good first step.
However, I can't make you feel what I feel. I fall somewhere in between Justin Bourne's reaction at Backhand Shelf and Thomas Drance's reaction at Canucks Army. Both raise important points. I can understand if you think this is good enough as it has the approval of YCP and GLAAD and others. It's a good thing that he's willing to work with YCP too. I agree with Tom Gulitti, this can be a teachable moment and I hope it does. To that end, I hope journalists like Gulitti can follow up on whether lessons were actually learned.
I can sympathize if you think this is hollow, though. After all, the statement highlights Janssen regretting his language - I don't think that's really the problem. My issue isn't how he said what he said, it's what he actually said. It was offensive, language aside. I would have preferred if the apology also specifically brought up what he did that was wrong. Something to the effect that "I said (insert terrible things), I didn't think it was wrong then, but now I do and I know better" would have been wonderful. Not saying " I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language," would have been good too. It almost makes this a non-apology apology. A far better way would have been to say "I am deeply sorry for my offensive statements," but that may be the fault of the fellow writing the statement.
I leave it to you as to whether you're fine with this or not. I'm glad he came out with a statement and it's good that he's got support from it. I just think it could have been a lot stronger by being more specific and demonstrating that Janssen knows what he said that was wrong.
WHY THIS IS A BIG DEAL
However, why these statements led to a statement of apology deals with issues larger than Janssen. I will admit that the fact this happened in the week of July 13 helped get this interview and Janssen more attention, but that doesn't mean it's just some mid-summer story that's should just go away. The interview and the response to it is full evidence that the players in the NHL and hockey in general has a long way to go to get the desired level of inclusiveness and safety. I don't know about you, but after a season of players joining You Can Play and ads of players at all levels publicly saying they support gay players, Janssen's was a smack of reality that not everyone's on board with being inclusive. After a public emphasis on explanations for suspensions and adding rules for headshots, Janssen's statement about hurting people is a chilling reminder of what role some players play. And both are not good for the team's, league's, and sport's image, business, and morals.
Hockey as a whole still has to fight the perception and reality that it is an exclusive sport where "the other" (be it gay people, minorities, players from other countries like, say, Russia) is regularly shunned and made welcome in the locker room and in the larger culture. Oh, and it's OK to take out a player with headshots despite the serious risk of injury. It is perceived as a lesser sport partially because of issues like this. And the statements that Cam Janssen made can and will be used as evidence that there is no real progress on either front. It may be just words, but they're pretty powerful - especially in a sport and culture where players tend to stick to bland cliches. That's why we got to call it out as something wrong and explain why it's wrong - just as YCP wrote in their statement about Janssen. If we don't, then we're doomed to stay where we are whether it's about gay players, hurting people, or whatever. (And, yes, some of the efforts like fighting anti-gay sentiment has to come from us.) That will only hold back hockey in terms of popularity, perception, and pride.
I know I can't make you care, but it's why I believe this isn't just some small story in my eyes or in the eyes of many other hockey fans.
Let's get back to Janssen. The apology could have been better, but it's enough for me that I don't think I have to keep referencing this interview every time I bring up Janssen similar to how I refer to the Rangers as Our Hated Rivals. It's also enough for me to have some hope that Janssen learns from this and comes out as a better person because of it. He can improve from possibly being just terrible. I hope he proves that in the future for his own sake. It's also enough that we can focus on the reality we held before this interview happened: that Janssen is still a terrible hockey player.
Hopefully, this is will be the last time I devote so many words to Cam Janssen for a bit; though this will not be forgotten. Please feel free to have your say about the interview, Janssen's apology, and this post in the comments. Please, please, please be excellent to each other and actually read and think about the comments you're responding to. I do not want to see anymore personal attacks or arguments driven by projection. Thank you for reading.