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Did a Toronto radio host use a homophobic reference to describe Cody Franson’s play?

Jul 13, 2011, 1:44 PM EDT

Cody Franson Getty Images

When the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Cody Franson from the Nashville Predators it was hailed as a great move by Leafs GM Brian Burke and a solid addition to the Leafs lineup. After all, Franson is a younger player and a blue liner that plays with offensive skills.  While the Leafs have physical defensemen in the lineup like captain Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie, Franson will be able to help them score goals.

Toronto AM 640 host Bill Watters in talking about the acquisition of Franson, however, had a different way of discussing Franson on the air and Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets is doing their part to point out how crass it was. As for what Watters had to say on Franson, it may seem innocuous on first glance, but it’s possible there was a darker meaning to it all.

“Well, I’m at a loss. The only… you’ve got to look through his statistics, he’s got some offensive flair, he is not what you would call a rugged, truculent, testosteronic, guy… He’s more of a 3rd of July parade guy. He likes to enjoy the good life and I don’t, I just can’t put a reason behind why you’d give up on a 6’5 defenceman with offensive skill unless he’s just a bit too soft.”

If you’re wondering what parade went on in Toronto on July 3rd, that was the Gay Pride parade. The same parade that Leafs GM Brian Burke participated in in honor of his son Brendan. Now you see why this statement could be a lot more foolish.

At Pension Plan Puppets, they’d like answers and they’d like to know what Watters meant by what he said. Watters has not responded to them but the site is making their case very clear and Burke’s involvement in supporting gay rights is at the center of it.

If Watters intended this as an anti-gay slur, it is unacceptable. Leafs fans haven’t had a lot to be proud about over the last few years as far as on-ice matters are concerned, but off the ice, the Leafs organization has given us several reasons to cheer. The Leafs have been at the forefront of the developing movement to confront and eliminate homophobia in hockey.

Burke’s commitment to fighting homophobia and intolerance, particularly since the death of his son Brendan, has been truly inspiring. While we would like to think that the organization would reconsider their relationship with AM 640, “the home of the Leafs” because of something like this, we realize that will never happen. These contracts go to the highest bidder, and every penny counts (especially if we’re going to buy more Cody Fransons). Moreover, we don’t know if Watters reflects the views of the station’s ownership.

If Watters meant what it seems like he did with his phrasing, he’s flat out wrong for describing a player in such a way. It’s careless, pointless, and needlessly hateful to say things that way. Playground insults borne out of cruel beliefs have no place in the media. If Watters meant something else by what he said, he’d be better served to clear the air and explain himself.

Given how the Toronto media likes to act out, however, we’re not expecting anything to come of it. After all, when Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun went after and “deeply offended” Brian Burke for going to Afghanistan to visit Canadian troops on the day NHL free agency kicked off on July 1, nothing came of that other than Burke being especially cold towards Simmons in press conferences. It’s tough to make your mark in Toronto media and to do what it takes to get ratings or readers, but if Bill Watters opted to take a potshot at a new player in such a foul way… That’s unnecessary and wrong.

  1. trbowman - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Where’s the slur?

  2. bigbear42 - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    I assume its the “3rd of July parade guy.” I’m not sure what that parade is for tho

    • notafullcolon - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:36 PM

      You guys do realize that it explains what the parade is for…RIGHT after the comment? I know reading compression is hard, but come on

  3. galuple - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    If you read the article you’d noticed that the 3rd of July is the gay pride parade in Toronto

  4. Doug Rutherford - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:08 AM

    I think there’s another radio station that would more than want the contract for the Leaf’s coverage. I know, until I hear from the station that some action has been taken to remove Watters, I won’t listen and I WILL NOT patronize any of their advertizers.

    BTW, I’m not gay.

    • nhlbruins90 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:36 AM

      That’s the beauty of the free market.

  5. polegojim - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Whether you agree or disagree – everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

    I don’t ask others to agree with my beliefs and life decisions, I simply ask to be treated respectfully.

    Really not so hard to extend respect to others is it?

    @dougrutherford – that puts you in the same class – hating the haters is reverse zealotry.
    What does that accomplish except more fuel for the fire. Hate breads hate, intolerance breeds intolerance.

    • nhlbruins90 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:49 AM

      If dougrutherford doesn’t want to listen to that radio station anymore, good for him. That’s not hateful, he’s just speaking his mind through a free market.

      I’m a passionate hockey fan, and one of a small number of Americans who will watch almost every game on Versus, from day one to the end, including the draft. Trust me, it’s not pleasant to hear three middle-aged guys make homophobic jokes between periods. (Jonesy, Engblom and that other stiff). If I decide that I don’t want to listen to these guys anymore, I’m just speaking my mind through the market. Nothing hateful about it.

      • polegojim - Jul 15, 2011 at 9:13 AM

        So if someone says they won’t listen to a radio station because they openly supported a gay stance, what would it be called? The opposite position is no different.

        With your reasoning, Bill Watters was just speaking his mind as well.

        Intolerant positioning on either side only makes things worse.

      • nhlbruins90 - Jul 15, 2011 at 9:41 PM

        If somebody doesn’t want to listen to a radio station because the host supports gay marriage, that’s just fine. I suspect most people in Mississippi and Utah and Harlem don’t support gay marriage, and they aren’t shy about expressing their feelings. Freedom is a great thing.

        Bill Watters can say what he wants also, but he works for an employer who signs his paycheck. If his employer feels harmed by what he says, then … well, that’s the free market at work again. If Leaf fans and management find his comments to be demeaning and needlessly insulting, well, his employer may take note of that. Nothing unfair about it.

        If this were 1963, Watters could just come right out and call the player a f*g, everybody in the studio would laugh their a**es off, and nobody would care a whit, except the gay people in the audience. They would just have to shut up and take it, or worse, laugh along with everybody else to keep that closet door closed tightly.

        This isn’t 1963. The majority of Leaf fans don’t want to hear those kinds of insults in public. It needlessly demeans them, their children, their brothers, their sisters, their uncles, their friends. In 2011, that’s considered basic civility. That doesn’t mean everybody has to be, or wants to be civil. It’s just norm in this day and age.

    • nhlbruins90 - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      Actually, respect and politeness are two different things. Respect implies a differential ranking of someone, and it’s expected to be earned. I have a great deal of respect for player A because he plays up to his potential and carries himself well off the ice. I don’t respect player B so much, because he’s content to get by on his natural gifts and acts like a spoiled brat off the ice.

      I’d treat each player with civility and politeness because we live in a polite and civil society. Well, not so much as before, but you get the point.

      • polegojim - Jul 15, 2011 at 9:26 AM

        Good comparison, but off point – we’re talking about two different things.

        Haters can be polite and civil, which doesn’t even remotely address the root issue.

        Take the high road first, unless given a reaon not to.

        Lastly – Watters may make a retraction and apologize right? Anybody who jumps straight to boycotting and grandstanding operates with a very small mind.

  6. nhlbruins90 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    The writer does everything but call Franson a f*g. And as it’s written, he seems to imply that the player is literally gay, and perhaps that’s why Nashville traded him. He implies gay people are soft, enjoy the good life too much, are low in male hormones and whatever other slurs he threw in there. This guy is hitting on all cylinders.

    It’s hard to believe in this day and age that anybody over 15 and out of junior high would still make ignorant comments like that … in public, in writing. It’s even harder to believe that a guy who makes his living commenting on the Leafs would be so utterly unconcerned with how comments like that would be taken, by management and fans alike. This guy is totally clueless. Hateful? How would I know that. Hate is a strong word. (let’s stop with the name-calling) Ignorant and juvenile? You bet.

    It would be a good thing if a few players took this guy to task for his insults. By that, I certainly don’t mean a ‘hey, he called one of us gay’ type of thing. That just validates what the writer is saying and demeans gay people all over again. Oh, if I had a dime for every time I heard that one.

    Or maybe there’s a former player out there (gay) who might want to set this guy straight. C’mon guys, you know who you are. You’re rich, successful guys, you have nothing to fear. It’s not 1963. It might even buy you another 15 minutes of fame, well, at least 5 minutes. Sure, people will laugh at you behind your back, and if you ever get caught in a rowdy, drunken crowd after a game, get ready for some raw insults, but who cares. Big boys like you can take it, and it’ll make it easier for guys that aren’t as tough as you are.

    OK, so you won’t get that coaching job (or whatever), but at what point in life does your basic self-respect trump money and success and fear? How much is enough? At what point do you just say, who cares.

  7. smillr58 - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:07 AM

    Can’t say anything anymore… I guess they really want us to comment on what they rip apart (media scum)

  8. jpelle82 - Jul 19, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    isnt this what commentator’s get paid for? making comments and expressing opinion? no freedom of speech in canada? who cares

  9. judymeissner - Jul 19, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    THE SLUR OF “HOMOPHOBE” IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE.

    ”Homophobia” has never been listed as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Rather it is a disrespectful, pejorative, non-scientific, non-medical word invented to attack and incite violence against all who disagree with aberrosexualism or biologically aberrant sexual behavior.

    “Homophobe” is a hate-loaded slur used by the partisans of the anti-Life, antisocial Aberrosexualist ideology to unjustly discriminate, stigmatize, demean, hurt and offend everyone who disagrees with their extremist ideology and irrational agenda. This slur is as despicable as any other ethnic, racial or sexist slur. It has no place in civil, respectable public discourse and it should be understood that its use is never acceptable. Never!

    • nhlbruins90 - Jul 20, 2011 at 8:18 PM

      Ah, so that’s what I am, an aberrosexual. Maybe I should go into town tonight and meet up with some of my aberrosexual friends and we can all bust a gut laughing at that one!

      This post has now jumped the shark and attracted the lunatic fringe crowd (judymeissner). No longer worth serious thought and debate.

  10. rastajoe - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Two commenters above have made disingenuous remarks, rather than openly state that they agree with Bill Watters serial slurs.

    Judy Meissner

    A homophobe is someone who fears homosexuals / homosexuality, and by your labeling of such people as “Aberrosexualist” (aberrosexual abero ˈsɛksjʊəl ˌhɒm- Noun. 1. One that is sexually aberrant or that behaves in a sexually unnatural, abnormal, or untypical way), you have confirmed that you can be a poster child for homophobia. Thinly-veiled hate there Jude…

    Jim Polego

    Jim, boycotting offensive media is not hating (attacking Watters personally would be hating), but rather it is an attempt to drag human civility into the 21st Century. Anyways, Watters got fired today, but it was more to do with ratings, although the slurs may have contributed to the timing of his departure. You may not have meant to imply that you agree with Watters, however when you jump on someone pointing out a reasonable response, one fears that “thou doth protest too much.”

    Peace 2 All!

    Yuya Joe College

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