Maybe it’s condescending of me, but there’s something awfully sweet — and kind of limited — about the New York Rangers’ Sean Avery’s hope that the National Hockey League will broadly advocate for progressive issues after his experience supporting the passage of the state’s equal marriage law last friday. He told the New York Post:
I understand that the NHL represents 30 different owners who come from different backgrounds and hold different viewpoints, but I think it would be meaningful for Gary [commissioner Bettman] and the Board of Governors to open themselves up for conversation about this issue…The support I received from the Garden, Mr. [James] Dolan, Glen [Rangers general manager Sather] and [president of MSG Sports] Scott O’Neil meant everything to me, but it was a little disappointing not to have heard from anyone connected with the league…It would be great for the NHL to take the lead among professional sports leagues in terms of social equality and justice and be out front and progressive regarding issues like this.
Now, obviously equal marriage rights are an issue where the traditional political boundaries are increasingly starting to blur. A bunch of traditionally Republican hedge funders shelled out to help make marriage equality a reality in New York. And obviously it could be quite helpful to have a bunch of professional athletes speaking out in favor of gay equality, among other issues. But the idea that NHL owners are going to line up behind other issues of “social equality and justice” — well, it is laughable. Increasingly, it’s socially unacceptable to be a homophobe. But if you want to perpetrate the pay gap between men and women, or insist that anyone can make it in the economy if they just try hard enough, my sense is that you still get invited to all of the good parties. As David Frum and others have discovered (no matter how long it took them), granting gay people the right to get married doesn’t actually involve an upheaval of the social order, and might even serve to reinforce it. Other social justice issues might involve some actual discomfort if they’re going to produce actual change.