Sports

Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse saga gets less attention because it’s the NHL, not NFL or NBA

As is the case when it comes to missing children, it’s about who it happens to — not that it’s happening. And right now, the Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a sex scandal that would be the biggest story in sports — if Americans cared about hockey.

For the last few years, another sex scandal has been unfolding in sports with less national coverage than the others. What’s been going on with the Blackhawks and the NHL directly speaks to sports fans lack of attention to a franchise — who plays in a league that falls woefully behind the NFL, NBA, MLB, (and even the WNBA at times) in popularity and hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since the 2014-2015 season — and who the alleged victims are.

It’s not only a case study of what American sports fans prefer to consume, but an example of who society deems “worthy victims.”

Recently, a second former player from the Blackhawks organization came forward with claims that they were sexually assaulted by former assistant coach Brad Aldrich. A little over two years ago, Kyle Beach publicly alleged that Aldrich had sexually assaulted him during a similar timeframe.

“This case is about institutional negligence at its worst, where the culture of win at all costs [Ed. note: Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010] allowed a predator coach to abuse players at a time where the coach knew he could act with impunity,” said attorney Antonio Romanucci in a report from USA Today Sports. In the report, the attorneys also said that Beach’s decision to speak out played a part in their client also doing so.

The lawsuit alleges grooming, assault, harassment, and allegations of nude photos being sent. It has all of the same ingredients we’ve seen in other sex scandals in sports that have received far more coverage. Also, this is the same franchise that was sued in 2021 because the team allegedly gave Aldrich a glowing recommendation for his next job.

Check this out from Deadspin’s Sam Fels’ previous story on the incident:

Brad Aldrich

Brad Aldrich
Photo: Getty Images

Here’s a bit from TSN Senior Correspondent Rick Westhead’s report: ‘The plaintiff, who is referred to as “John Doe (2)” in court documents, alleges that former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich, who no longer works for the franchise, sexually assaulted him on March 6, 2013, when Aldrich was an assistant coach on a high school team in Houghton, Mich., and the plaintiff was a 16-year-old player.

“At an end-of-season gathering for the players, Aldrich provided alcohol to the then minor plaintiff and performed oral sex on the plaintiff without his consent,” the six-page lawsuit says.”

Over the last few years, we learned of all the inhumane and sickening things that Larry Nassar did to girls and boys for decades. Then came the Mel Tucker situation at the same school, as adults were now the focus. Before that, Megan Mullen — the wife of former Florida head coach Dan Mullen — was committing sexual harassment by kissing all of the players before each game, as if they had a choice in saying no to a white coach’s white wife who kissed a majority Black team full of teenagers in the South. And like the situation with the Blackhawks, the sexual assault allegations against Dwight Howard have gone underreported, or horribly reported, by so many in the sports media world because the thought of sexual assault happening between men is something their basic minds cannot fathom, or they lack the depth, intellect, and humanity to cover it properly.

“I don’t think our industry is equipped to handle this,” Bomani Jones recently said on his podcast.

“We have not reached a point where you can hear something about a man dealing with another man and we’re just like, ‘OK, now let’s discuss what has happened,” Jones explained. “When Dwight Howard was trending, it wasn’t righteous indignation. It was jokes.”

The NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks have been able to escape the accustomed backlash that occurs when sex scandals happen in sports because they play a sport that most Americans don’t care about anymore. However, while the way they’ve mismanaged this is on them, the way it hasn’t been properly covered and ignored isn’t. Society loves to pick and choose who they deem fit to be a victim and who is worthy of sympathy. And if this case has taught us anything, is that this country is a long way from understanding that sexual assault and harassment allegations should always be taken seriously — no matter the gender of the people involved. 



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