Evander Kane set the internet on fire today by alleging that he faced racism and that he did not feel as supported by the Winnipeg Jets as other players are either by the Jets or by their own teams. Kane is 100% allowed to feel that way and more importantly we should listen when he says this.
Kane came to Winnipeg when he was 20. Winnipeg has a reputation for being a racist city and do not try to deny this if you are not of a minority. While most of the conversation about racism in Winnipeg centres around the indigenous population, when Macleans magazine wrote about racism in Winnipeg other groups spoke out about the racism that they faced in the city as well. It is everywhere and while I cannot talk about it as I am white, when you read enough stories you begin to understand how pervasive the issue is.
If Kane felt as though he was the victim of racist behaviour, he should be listened to. Anyone who feels this way should be listened to. We cannot project our feelings of how we think people are being treated to how they are being treated. There is a great series by Tamora Pierce called Protector of the Small where the protagonist, Kel, is the first female to openly train for knighthood in over 100 years. She faces sexism every day and while she ignores it, her friends start fighting people who are sexist towards her behind her back. Her friends try to insulate her from the worst of the sexism and then become hyper vigilant about any behaviour that could be perceived as sexist. She was frustrated by this because she did not see how the behaviour was sexist. Eventually her older friend had to explain how boys were using her sex to try and get the training master to kick her out. Even if by definition the behaviour is not racist in our eyes, it can still be racist in Kane's eyes or someone who is perceived as racist by him or those around him as the opinions of close friends and family should count. It is fair to say that Kane is feeling like he was subjected to racism and that should be good enough for everyone else. It is not our place to judge how he feels, but instead to listen to him and try to empathize with him, even if his feelings are foreign to us.
This leads me to the main criticism of Kane which is "if he wasn't so cocky/an asshole/attention-seeking, we would not hate him." Bullshit. All professional athletes have to be cocky to be good. Even if it is a quiet confidence, they have it in them. They have to think that they can be the best so that they become the best athlete that they can be. To accuse Kane of being too cocky for his own good because he believes that he can score 50 goals in a season or because he thinks he is the best is wrong. He has to think that way because that is how he is wired. That is how almost all athletes are wired. It may not be as visible in others; it may be a quiet, burning desire under the surface, but it is there and it is an all-consuming force when it needs to be.
Yes, Kane has done some things that will turn people off of him. Moneyphone was one, his pushups with money on his back was another. Liking Kane was never a requirement of being Jets fan when he was in Winnipeg. Liking any Jet player is not a requirement. Cheering for a team does not require one to love every player. It does not require anything. You can hate a player for any reason, but under no circumstance should we mock Kane for his honesty. If he felt uncomfortable in Winnipeg, he is well within his rights to ask for a trade. If he feels like he was treated unfairly and that he was subject to racism during his time here, we should listen to him and then ask ourselves why he may feel this way. Instead of brushing off what Kane says as being his own fault, we should ask ourselves what can be done differently to make sure no player ever feels this way again.
It is not just the fans who most likely made Kane feel like he was subject to racism while he played for the Jets. Although Gary Lawless claimed that True North Sports and Entertainment talked to him about how he wrote about Kane, Kane certainly was the subject of many unflattering articles over the years. While some of them may have been rooted in logic, there was a certain vicious angle that came out at some points that pointed to nonsensical arguments used to turn fans on a player that had done nothing out of the ordinary. Unlike fans, it is not fine for the media to not like a player just because. Even if the media person does not like a player's personality, they have the obligation to provide unbiased analysis of the team. While columns are more liberal then the game stories, it is still important to provide analysis based solely on facts and not in a world where opinions are being coloured by the ideas of others. Instead, if biases are going to be shown, then there needs to be an equal and opposite opinion to allow someone to form a full opinion on who someone is seen as a public figure, not who the are as a person.
Of course all of this has an endgame. Kane will be booed when he comes to Winnipeg with the Buffalo Sabres in January. Boo him, that's part of the game. That is part of sport. However, if you are a news outlet do not stoop as low as CJOB and take a shot at Kane, who is injured again, because you can. Instead of wondering why Kane does not like Winnipeg, CJOB decided to make it personal by attacking a player for getting hurt? Anyways, please note that CJOB is not representative of all Winnipeg media and most dealt with the Kane injury by ignoring it. But remember CJOB's tweet next time Kane says he wanted out of Winnipeg ever since he got here. He probably had more than enough reasons.