Sean Avery and Jon Favreau: Comparing the NHL and the Obama Administration

Two recent public incidents have caught my eye and I'm stuck on one question someone asked me, "What do you think is appropriate punishment?"

Last week, NHL player, Sean Avery, came under fire after commenting to the press and making a disparaging comment about  former girlfriends who are now in relationships with other NHL players:

"I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the
NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what
that's about, but enjoy the game tonight."

He is referring to ex-girlfriend actress Elisha Cuthbert is reportedly now dating Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames.  Another former girlfriend of Avery, model Rachel Hunter is reportedly now seeing another NHL player, Jarret Stole of the Los Angeles Kings.

Avery, with a history of making inappropriate remarks to stir controversy was suspended for six games and has been described as a "disturber, an agitator" by Barry Melrose, ESPN NHL analyst.

Even more recently, the chief speechwriter of our President-elect, 27 year old Jon Favreau, has made his own headlines when a picture of him was displayed on Facebook that showed the newly minted talent groping the right breast of a life-size cutout of the new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  In the picture, there is a friend tilting a beer to her lips, offering a kiss, and grasping the top of the cutout's hair,  all together disturbing and disasterous.

These two separate incidents are, in one sense, hardly newsworthy when you consider the severity of the actions: offensive statements and thoughtless sexist actions caught on camera.  But what makes these kinds of incidents so compelling is the reaction of the public and the organizations they represent.  To date, Avery was suspended for six games and Favreau, according to the Washington post apologized to the former First Lady, but received no punishment for his boorish pose. Even more maddening is that Clinton camp simply called it good-natured fun and Clinton "is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," despite her reign on the sexist parade the past two years.

So, let me make this clear in my head: the NHL suspends Avery for his disruptive behaviors which include sexist comments and (thanks to La Macha's work on this) un-sportsmanlike behavior but the Obama administration has nothing to say.  Clinton herself, who rightfully pointed out the sexism spewed on her during her campaign trail, has now gone cold on calling out sexism and sings pleasure of his application to the State Department.  Favreau, the leading mind behind Obama's public vernacular merely hangs his head as he is carded the newest "Facebook victim" and nothing more.

The lack of any kind of response about the incident is off-putting.  Which brings me to the question: What is the appropriate response for offensive behavior done off working hours but contradict the image what you work for?  Does the punishment fit the crime? In Avery's case, yes.  He reportedly had been warned in the past and to carefully watch his mouthy steps.  Favreau though, with all of this verbal sophistication, looks like he will not even receive a tap on his once roaming right hand.  If firing him is not the correct measure, then what?  Suspending him for six speeches?  I don't think so, but his thoughtlessness warrants something in between losing his job and Clinton's spokesperson sweeping it under the rug.  Is sexism called out only when it is beneficial to strengthening presidential campaigns and now when it is post-election, an offensive photo is now just a toss into the wagon of "fun?"

Momentarily putting aside the commendable and rare response of the NHL, the sad reality of these two incidents is not the six-game suspension or public shaming of "Favs."  The maddening component is how commonplace these behaviors are and how easy it is to dismiss sexism, however public or lewd.  Any weekend in any bar - glorified city or unknown small town - on any given Saturday night gathering, you can find an Avery or Favreau disrespecting women either in word or gesture.  The most common character though is the person who makes light of it all; you can always find a Philippe Reines nonchalantly waving it off as funny or a trivial matter.

I just never thought I'd ever have to compare the NHL to the Democratic party for their reactions and then applaud the former for taking some form of action. At the very least, they recognized it as unacceptable and sent a stiff penalty to Avery with a kindergarten lesson attached, "That's not right and you can't say something like that."

And since the Dems seem to be suddenly ignoring the impact of a sexist action gone internet crazy, I take it upon myself to give a kindergarten message made especially for Jon Favreau, "Stay in line and keep your hands to yourself."


by Lisa Factora-Borchers
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Lisa Factora-Borchers is the formal editorial director at Bitch Media. Her work is widely published and she is the editor of the anthology, Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence.



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8 Comments Have Been Posted

Why Avery was really suspended

I'd like to just note that the NHL hasn't suspended Avery for making sexist comments about his ex-girlfriend, but rather for showing disrespect to another (male) player. BIG difference.

"The suspension was imposed following inappropriate public comments about the personal lives of opposing players, and not pertaining to the game."

Regardless, Avery's a big jerk and I'm happy to see him suspended. Wish the NHL would just kick him out entirely, but that's not likely to happen.

Good point

<p>Thanks for the reference article, Megan.  Good point.</p><p>Mhm, I thought it was dual low blows to both his exes and fellow NHL players.  I was looking at the sexist language toward his former girlfriends more than the hockey players.</p><p>I interpreted the reports that it was his overall attitude that got him suspended - including the &quot;sloppy seconds&quot; reference - but with your point, it does make one slower to give a head nod toward the NHL. </p><p>Thanks for the clarification. </p>

I'm not an expert on this

I'm not an expert on this subject, but the NHL's choice of words might have to do with the NHLPA (NHL players association). The union has negotiated strict rules about what a player can and cannot be suspended for, because a player forfeits their their pay for the duration of the suspension. While I'd have to plow through lots of paperwork to confirm my suspicions, I'm guessing that the NHL just looked for the first (and most solid) clause they could use to suspend Avery. If there was a specific clause about inappropriate comments regarding other players' personal lives, it's probably a lot easier to suspend him for that than inappropriate comments toward a non-NHL player. But maybe I'm wrong...

You're probably right

You're probably right about that. Unions are usually pretty strict about that kind of thing, so it makes sense that the NHL likely had to use very specific language. Still, they could have also said something to the effect of, "Not only was he a big jerk to these other players, he was also a big jerk to these women and that only makes this all the more heinous." But they didn't. Sigh.

Did you all actually SEE his comments? He went looking for the reporters, asked if the cameras were rolling, and then made those comments. What a jerk.

Jerk, cont.

Yeah, apparently he told his teammates something to the effect of "I've got something planned, watch this" before he skated up to the press. It was completely rehearsed.

The good news is that his team doesn't want him back at all. And I think a team has much more power (compared to the league) to suspend a player for "conduct detrimental to the team". But I doubt they'll be going into specifics and criticizing his comments as "sexist", though, so your point remains.

I ranted about the reaction to Avery's comments in another blog post <i>Rethinking
"sports" </i>, so I won't go through all that again, but I think this isn't the last we've heard of this issue.

Watched it unfold...

Yeah, I saw the footage and even though I don't normally watch NHL highlights, I though it looked a bit contrived.  Good to see that the team doesn't support him.  He sounds like waayyy too much trouble for what he's worth.

I watched every play when he

I watched every play when he was with the Kings.
Did not know about he off ice stuff.
In my opinion, on ice he is a player with talent, unfortunately his attitude toward the game
leaves a lot to be desired. I wonder if it is the little man syndrome??
Maybe it is a characeter thing....something is missing....too bad for Sean

Sean Avery and Jon Favreau: Comparing the NHL and the Obama

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