NHL fans are taking action in the hopes of getting the league to adopt a new policy on domestic violence and sexual assault.
Dennis Wierzbicki/Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor
A fan-created Change.org petition urging the NHL to adopt a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence and sexual assault is gaining steam, garnering over 1,400 signatures in its first week of existence. According to the description for the petition, the campaign was inspired by fans who are dissatisfied by the league’s lack of action against Patrick Kane, a Chicago Blackhawks player who was accused of raping a woman over the summer.
Kane has never been charged with any crime in relation to the accusations, but an investigation into the allegations against him remains ongoing. Kane is permitted to continue playing normally in the interim, and he is currently tied for third place in scoring in the NHL with seven points in six games.
The Change.org petition explained:
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In early August, Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane was accused of raping a woman, another case of sexual violence in a sport that seems unwilling to change for the better. The investigation remains open, yet Kane has not missed a single day on the ice. On the contrary, his team and the league continue to actively promote him.
It's become increasingly difficult for hockey fans like me — especially women, who make up roughly 1 in 3 NHL fans — to cheer for teams that shrug off serious allegations of their players assaulting women. These teams often place on-ice competition and business interests above basic decency. And we’ve had enough of it.
As public incidences of violence against women continue to bring shame to the hockey community, the National Hockey League has steadfastly refused to change. Not anymore. We are petitioning the NHL to institute a clear, comprehensive policy of zero tolerance for players who commit acts of intimate partner violence or sexual assault.
The Kane situation comes just one year after former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov faced charges of domestic violence. Voynov — unlike Kane — was arrested due to his actions and was subsequently suspended indefinitely by the league. But Voynov was caught participating in a practice with the Kings while he was supposed to be suspended, and the league fined the Kings $100,000 for permitting Voynov to take part in the practice. Some NHL fans argued the fine was not a stiff enough penalty, as the Kings are worth over $200 million according to a valuation by Forbes.
Voynov plead not guilty to the domestic violence charge but served a 90-day jail sentence after pleading no contest to a lesser charge of corporal injury to a spouse. Voynov, a native of Russia, then faced deportation but returned to Russia on his own before the United States could complete the deportation process.
The NHL does not have a formal clear policy regarding domestic violence and sexual assault, but it does have the ability to suspend players indefinitely for moral reasons according to broad clauses in Article 18-A of the NHL CBA.
Article 18-A.5 of the CBA states:
The League may suspend the Player pending the League's formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.
Fans have protested the NHL’s lack of action against Kane earlier this season. When Kane participated in the Blackhawks’ banner-raising ceremony to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship, fans united on social media through the hashtag "#notmyNHL" to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault. The move was also used as a way for fans to show the NHL they were dissatisfied by the way the league is handling the Kane situation.