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The Upper Canadien

The business of sports: Uptown Hockey

As regular readers know, I am in finance by day, have a business background, and occasionally write about the business of hockey. Today, Uptown Sports Management, a well known agency for professional athletes, made a very odd and controversial decision, involving the relatively new medium of Twitter.

They opted to Tweet their disapproval of gay marriage:

uptownhockey Uptown Sports
Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender “marriage”. Legal or not, it will always be wrong.

Uptown Sports Management on Twitter

Now, personal feelings aside, in today’s day and age, it seems awfully strange, and blatantly offensive, for a business to express its disapproval of how adults conduct themselves within their private relationships. Like it or not, that’s what a public pronouncement on gay marriage does. It reflects as a condemnation of the entire community. That’s why smart companies never issue public displays of opinion on issues like religion, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. It is simply asking for a controversy.

And that’s what Uptown Sports Management has on its hands. Talk about a public relations disaster.

This all seems stranger still given the context. As anyone familiar with hockey knows, Brian Burke has been on a personal quest since the death of his young son, Brendan, to fight for equality in the hockey world. It has been very publicized, and a very emotional and personal journey for Burke. He’s on the record as being on a quest to achieve equality in hockey for people of all sexual orientations. There have been recent CBC specials, HNIC coverage. It’s topical. This is not an area any business should be venturing into.

Such a statement also makes one wonder about opinions that no company wants people wondering about: what is Uptown’s view of minorities playing hockey now? How about women in the hockey world? Again, like it or not, that’s what issuing a public statement like this does to any firm of prominence. Public judgements of groups of people, generally, are not a good place for a business to go.

Uptown Sports Management has made a key error. They’ve allowed personal opinion to interfere with their business. This would never happen with a company like Tim Hortons, RBC, McDonald’s, or Bauer. And it wouldn’t happen with competitors, like Newport Sports. It seems illogical a business full of lawyers would do this. If I were a hockey player, would I want a firm like Uptown representing me after making such a strategic error?

I’m curious to follow this along. Will Uptown apologize? Will a junior staff member be blamed for the Tweet? Regardless, this is just another example of how in today’s digital age a simple decision can have a lasting effect. For a company charged with managing the careers of sports professionals, Uptown Sports just made a blatant error. If they were looking after my legal and financial well-being, I would definitely be at least considering new representation.

Oh, and to close: there should be equality in hockey, and everywhere. I’m not afraid to say it. Religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation - it’s 2011. This stuff is archaic. Come on Uptown, why have you gotta spoil a perfectly good playoff day for everyone?

Update

Todd Reynolds of Uptown Sports Management took to the airwaves of 1050 TSN Radio in Toronto just before 7 pm Monday to defend his views on gay marriage, as he was the member of Uptown tweeting from the account. Reynolds was interview by James Cybulski and Bruce Arthur, who were clear in their questioning that they did not support his comments and felt that they could easily be interpreted as inappropriate. One very well phrased question was, “Why does gay marriage hurt your marriage or anybody else’s marriage?” I’m genuinely impressed by the lines of questioning that came through in the interview. Well done on TSN Radio’s part.

Reynolds mentioned numerous times that he was unfairly being called a bigot, and took pains to present himself as neither a bigot nor a person who does not support the rights of the gay community. He said he was very disappointed in being labelled homophobic and intolerant by pundits and the public alike online. However, Reynolds made several controversial remarks, regarding topics such as the benefits of having one father and one mother, and perhaps most contentiously he stated that, “I’m for equal rights. I just think when it comes to marriage, there’s another way to do it.” Which many online are rightfully interpreting as being for equal rights, except when it comes to gays and marriage.

So there you have it. Any way you look at it, not a good day for the public relations business at Uptown Hockey. And once again, unbelievable that any reasonably intelligent person, let alone a lawyer, could make such a blatantly discriminatory and controversial remark on behalf of a company.

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Comments

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I absolutely agree with you. Just a slight correction - Brian Burke was involved in gay rights before his son died. He supported his son.

go nucks go ( sorry lol)

Posted by Mrs Waachcast from victoria bc on 05/09/11 at 08:12 PM ET

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These people are absolute idiots and will hopefully be less quite a few clients soon. I’m sure an apology will be issued and some poor kid who did as he (was going to say he/she but given their views I’m pretty sure hiring a woman would not be a choice they would make) was told.

Some players will be able to ignore and fly under the radar as most fans have no idea who the agent/company that represents any given athlete is but the idiots at Uptown Sports Management actually identify individual athletes they represent in their bio on twitter - really, really stupid. Do we really think that Mike Fisher doesn’t have more important things on his mind right now? He will be asked about this and you will be taking him away from thinking about the only thing that should be on his mind right now and that’s winning his next two games and moving on in the playoffs.

I would sincerely hope that all of those who are clients, but especially those specifically mentioned in their twitter bio, will be looking for new representation immediately.

All I can do is hope that the next time I see any article or headline that mentions these morons it is referencing their declaring bankruptcy - sadly this will probably not happen as I’m sure the denials, apologies, blame game and cover-up have already begun.

Posted by Geografer from Spokane, WA on 05/09/11 at 08:14 PM ET

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Absolutely, Brian Burke has been a supporter for years. I was referring to how public it has become. In Toronto, for example, he has marched in the Pride Parade and held press conferences to launch PSA’s against homophobia. He was very much a supporter before, but he has taken it on his back since Brendan died. And that is a wonderful thing to see.

And this whole episode is summed up with two words: unbelievably stupid. I am genuinely stunned that what is essentially a law firm would do this. Incredibly foolish.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 05/09/11 at 08:21 PM ET

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I just have to shake my head as the stupidity of the comment.  Whether you agree with same-sex marriage or not, you should absolutely not use your company account to express opinions on that topic.

Posted by Kel on 05/09/11 at 08:22 PM ET

BettmenSucks79's avatar

stupid comment….i still have no idea why people weigh in on things that have never and will never affect their lives in any way shape or form….just sad….

Posted by BettmenSucks79 on 05/09/11 at 08:24 PM ET

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I should have mentioned that the audio from that interview will presumably be available at TSN Radio’s web page sometime soon. Worth giving it a listen. It’s positive that comments like this aren’t allowed to go by the wayside.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 05/09/11 at 09:39 PM ET

UMFan's avatar

From a business prospective, what the hell did Mr. Reynolds intend to gain from expressing this kind of viewpoint on a company twitter account? I mean really, nothing but bad can come from doing this. Just a dumb, dumb move.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 05/09/11 at 09:58 PM ET

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“I’m not a racist, but I think that white people should have some rights that other races don’t.”

We’d all agree that someone expressing that is a racist, right? A bigot. That is the equivalent to what the guy said - he says heterosexuals should have a right that homosexuals should not, and he doesn’t understand why people think he’s homophobic.

Posted by dzuunmod on 05/09/11 at 10:02 PM ET

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There are some incorrect statements in this post.  You should research what you say first and ask an objective 3rd party to proofread before posting.

“Now, personal feelings aside, in today’s day and age, it seems awfully strange, and blatantly offensive, for a business to express it’s disapproval of how adults conduct themselves within their private relationships”

This statement is incorrect.  Uptown Hockey did not “express it’s disapproval of how adults conduct themselves within their private relationships”.  Marriage is a very public affair, not a private relationship.  A private relationship is what two gay men choose to do behind closed doors.  That’s private.  Marriage is not, it’s public.

Uptown hockey did not say homosexuality is wrong, only that gay marriage is wrong.

Posted by Mike Roe on 05/09/11 at 11:26 PM ET

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I would hope that the hockey players that this agency represents would find the comments offensive and switch to other agents.

Posted by Scott from DC USA on 05/10/11 at 12:01 AM ET

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I spoke with a few of the people in my very small circle of friends who are or are associated with professional hockey players and 3 of 5 support Mr. Reynolds and are impressed that he’s taking a stand.  The other 2 were indifferent and kind of laughed it off.

Considering the client base of Uptown Sports is professional hockey players, do you really think this statement will affect their business negatively?  I don’t think so.

I think the media and the blogging world is trying to build this into something it’s not.  Good luck with that but I don’t think enough people disagree with Mr. Reynolds.

Posted by Mike Roe on 05/10/11 at 12:21 AM ET

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“I spoke with a few of the people in my very small circle of friends who are or are associated with professional hockey players and 3 of 5 support Mr. Reynolds and are impressed that he’s taking a stand.  The other 2 were indifferent and kind of laughed it off.”

Congratulations, Mike!  You’ve won the Shallowest Anecdote Award.  Well done.

Posted by Matt from Kingston, Ont on 05/10/11 at 04:16 PM ET

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Good discourse folks. Regardless of what quiet groups of players, or people, or whatever you would like to call them, think of all this, two important takeaways:

1) It is idiotic to express views on a topic such as this on Twitter. Nothing but bad can come from it. Just ridiculously stupid. That, more than anything, has to have clients questioning the intelligence of this agency.

2) It’s 2011. This isn’t a debate in Canada anymore. Marriage equality has existed for almost a decade, and just as people felt embarrassed after racial equality had been in place for a decade (how could we have treated people that way?) or women got the vote (how could we not have let women vote?) the large majority in Canada, where Uptown is based and operates, feel that such an approach to equality is the way it should be. Case closed. This isn’t a debate here, and people are ashamed of how the gay community was once treated. I am shocked that the Reynolds clan would fall back on the “but 20 years ago people felt this way and could express it” argument. It’s not 1990 anymore. There is no cold war. Get over it people and get with the present.

Anyhow, appreciate the comments folks. This controversy continues to grow. I’m interested to see where it goes.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 05/10/11 at 08:05 PM ET

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One thing you may or may not have seen, UC, is that Damian Goddard, an anchor with Rogers Sportsnet, went on his Twitter account today and stuck up for Reynolds.

Twitter is down right now so I can’t link to the Tweet itself, but you can see it once it’s back up @heydamo

Boneheaded move for a media personality to make, I have to say.

Posted by dzuunmod on 05/10/11 at 08:07 PM ET

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Dzuunmod: many thanks for the heads up. I did a little digging and Sportsnet sent out a slew of tweets in the past hour or two distancing themselves from Goddard:

RogersSportsnet Rogers Sportsnet
@
@sboulton Today’s tweet from Damian Goddard does not reflect the views of Rogers Sportsnet.

I doubt any other media members will make the same mistake Goddard did - but I could be wrong.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 05/10/11 at 08:56 PM ET

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The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com