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Patrick Kane: Hysteria and the Media

Stefan Delblanc (2L)

 

For those who were unaware, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks was accused of sexual assault early in August. Details have remained somewhat sketchy as the District Attorney continues its investigation and the media circus covering the story have circulated unsubstantiated claims.

 

A couple of weeks ago I agreed to sit down and write about the topic. What I expected to be a story about another shady athlete became something completely different. That morning, it had been reported that a bag, at that point alleged to be an evidence bag, was delivered to the complainant’s mother’s house. This bag was alleged to have contained the rape kit used to collect and store the evidence obtained from the complainant. The bag was empty. The complainant’s lawyer, Thomas Eoannou contacted the DA’s office. Rather than wait for an investigation, Mr. Eoannou held a press conference and revealed this allegation to the media. Allegations of evidence tampering swirled.

 

A day or two later it came to light that the bag was, in fact, a hoax perpetrated by the complainant’s mother. A swift investigation revealed the bag in question was given to the complainant’s mother at the hospital to bring home with her to place a shirt in. This shirt was the one her daughter had worn on the night in question. The complainant changed shirts before she attended the hospital. Why she did this is not yet clear. Commenting further as to the complainant’s mother’s motive would simply be dangerous speculation which could aid either camp. I won’t take that bait here.

 

Mr. Eoannou quit as counsel for the complainant and his part in this story ended with a lesson for all aspiring and practicing members of the legal profession about the value of professional conduct. Not to mention, the general benefit of confirming facts before passing them on as truth.

 

In comparing the dialogues around this disaster of a story, it struck me that there seems to be a collision between two very distinct discourses. One of the obvious lines of thought seems spurred on by the recent spree of misconduct by athletes that has come to public attention. Ray Rice and Slava Voynov come to mind. Coupled with this is the voice screaming out against victim blaming in sexual assault cases. This is perhaps the more novel aspect of this situation. Since this case involves an alleged rape, an additional set of questions arise and many voices have spoken up in defence of the complainant.

 

Many have demanded swift action from the NHL, saying that Kane should be removed from the ice while the investigation continues. Many expressed disgust with the Chicago Blackhawks for going ahead with Patrick Kane bobblehead night despite the accusations. It is easy to see where these voices are coming from.

 

On the other hand, there is the other side. Kane’s lawyer, during his press conference addressing the evidence bag

hoax, pointed out that false claims of sexual assault occur. They may not be as common as some would think, but they happen. In fact, while sitting in court last year, I watched a young woman plead guilty to charges for making a false statement to police about exactly that. Yes, it is true that victim blaming and shaming has long been a problem but this doesn’t make every allegation true. The bizarre fiasco with this evidenced bag simply adds to this confusion.

 

And yet, there is a nagging doubt preventing me from landing in any one camp. The key piece here is this: Patrick Kane has not been charged. The DA continues to investigate the allegations, but no charges have yet been laid. Is it appropriate for the court of public opinion to decide that a public figure should or should not be vilified before charges have even been pressed, let alone tried? I assure you, this is not a question that was at the top of my mind when my research began.

 

Given the status of the player involved and the seriousness of the allegations it is perhaps not surprising how energized the reaction has been among the media and the public at large. This story has taken bizarre turns from the start and numerous questions have spawned out of this strange scenario and my research into the topic. But with the advent of social media and the soap box that has been given to so many without any filters, alarming trends have come to light.

 

Sports have always placed a bright spotlight on culture at large. In the world of the internet and social media we are seeing this amplified to a degree we haven’t seen before. I think it is natural for our hearts to want to land on one side when things like this come up. We wish we could simply say, one way or another, who is right and who is wrong. But it isn’t always that simple. Given the “dog and pony show” that has surfaced in this case, it’s probably time for everyone to relax, take a deep breath, and trust in the system to sort things out.