Sean Avery has quickly become the face of the fight against homophobia in hockey over the last several months, as he's spoken out several times about his desire to see openly gay players be accepted and comfortable members of the hockey community.
If there's one other highly-visible face in the fight, though, it belongs to Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, whose son Brendan passed away in 2010 and was one of the first men in the hockey community to open up about their homosexuality.
That's why it's all the more disturbing that a member of the Toronto media apparently used a homophobic reference on the air this week when talking about Cody Franson, a fresh face on the team.
Here's what Bill Watters had to say on AM640 on July 4, as transcribed by SB Nation's Pension Plan Puppets:
"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."
As our Leafs blog points our, the Toronto Pride Parade was held on July 3 this year. PPP reached out to Bill Watters' show, as well as representatives at the radio station that employs him, and they've yet to get any type of response.
We'll let them explain:
We reached out to the Bill Watters Show last week to clarify what exactly Bill meant when, in describing Cody Franson as soft, lacking pugnacity and testosterone, he referred to the new Leafs blue-liner as a "3rd of July parade guy." (The Pride Parade took place in Toronto on July 3 this year.)
We offered Watters several chances to explain what he meant, provide context, clarify any confusion, and/or apologize if this was a comment that he would like to retract. We have not heard back.
We don't want to paint Watters with the negative brush just yet, but it's indeed curious that he hasn't returned comment on the question despite every opportunity to clarify what he meant. He surely could have meant that Franson was picked up from the Nashville Predators on July 3, but the use of the word "parade" and the lack of clarification just raises more questions.
Obviously, if Watters did mean something homophobic here, that's something that shouldn't be tolerated.