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The business of sports: Uptown Hockey wades into the gay marriage debate, Part Two

Following on my earlier post regarding Uptown Hockey and the controversy surrounding their remarks regarding gay marriage, two important updates:

1) Todd Reynolds, Vice President of Uptown, took to the airwaves to defend his firm’s decision to post these remarks at 6:45 this evening. That interview, which is well worth the listen, is available here:

TSN Radio Podcast: Uptown Hockey

Kudos to James Cybulski and Bruce Arthur for a very good interview.

2) Don Reynolds, Todd’s father and president of the company, did an interview shortly thereafter with the National Post. That can be found here:

http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/05/09/nhl-agent-avery-misguided-on-gay-marriage/

In the interview, Don Reynolds appears to equate gay marriage and beastiality. Controversial at best, offensive to many at worst. Something tells me Uptown Hockey may need a consulting firms services soon. This is why public relations experts exist, by the way.

We also learned that up until a week ago, Kyle Dubas, the newly minted GM of the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, was in charge of Uptown’s Twitter account. What does this teach anyone with a business? Make sure that the person managing your Twitter account has common sense and understands the medium. Common sense being the big one here.

Uptown has created a firestorm. And no matter how they try to paint it, it’s not a good one. It’s not good for them, and it’s even worse for hockey generally. This kind of intolerance is the last thing professional sports leagues want to be addressing publicly.

After observing all of this from afar, and writing on it, I feel like I’ve warped back to the 1980’s. Hearing the vice president of a certified NHL agency defend his remarks by suggesting people felt the way he does 20 years ago and were free to express it, so why isn’t he, didn’t help.

A strange Monday for hockey. Not the way I expected it to play out. And with that, I’m off to watch the Canucks game. Comments, as always, are welcome.

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Comments

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I was flabbergasted that any agent would be so unaware of the reaction the first tweet would evoke. As a business matter, as you analyzed it in your first post, there’s no possible upside. But the more I hear about Todd and Don Reynolds, the more I realize that I haven’t given Brian Burke, Brent Sopel, and Sean Avery as much credit as they deserve for speaking up. It’s easy in my profession, where no one would dream of equating gay marriage and bestiality. (Why on earth, by the way?) I bet it’s a lot harder when you’re surrounded by the Reynolds family.

Posted by K on 05/09/11 at 09:29 PM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

In the interview, Don Reynolds appears to equate gay marriage and beastiality.

Because a loving relationship between two consenting adults is TOTALLY the same as abusing and endangering the life of animals for sexual gratification.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 05/09/11 at 10:49 PM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

I don’t mean to spam your post here, but did they edit that national post article, or did you have an additional source?

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 05/09/11 at 10:59 PM ET

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Forlorn in VA: they very well may have edited it, but with respect to what?

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 05/09/11 at 11:12 PM ET

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K:  Very well said particularly about Burke, Sopel and Avery…and I have to add in Justin Bourne as well.

Of course Uptown has every right to voice their opinion.  We support the right to free speech.  But it makes one wince because they obviously don’t see that their vocal opinions are not that far off from those who once argued Jim Crow laws were indeed “separate but equal”.

It will be interesting to see if they lose any clients.  Eyes will be watching Mike Fisher as the entertainment industry employs many gays.  For sure Uptown will have more difficulty gaining new clients.  Even if an athlete shares the same point of view, not many want to be associated with a company who so easily spouts off without thinking of the ramifications.

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

George Malik's avatar

TSN doesn’t advertise it, but they do have a “podcast” page, and an MP3 of the interview is available here.

self-edited: FYI: You have to add a “3” to every file name because they post their files as .mp extensions for some reason. They don’t work as such…add the 3 and you get the interview…and, der, you posted that. Sorry!

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/09/11 at 11:59 PM ET

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NotSoFrosty,

Exactly what I was thinking when I saw that Mike Fisher was one of this agency’s clients.  For all we know, this will be on Perez Hilton’s site and TMZ by tomorrow (if not already; I can’t say I’m checking).

And hey, Andrew Brunette—he’s had some TV work on NHL Network this postseason, might want to get into that career.  Not exactly the same as the entertainment industry, but it’s never good for anyone in any media role to have potential conflicts out there like this. 

Anyway, I don’t know the numbers in Canada (but could probably find them in a few seconds), but in the U.S. the latest polls are showing that the majority of Americans DO support gay marriage.  Here’s the link for one recent article about this: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53414.html

Posted by nosferatu from Albany, NY on 05/10/11 at 03:05 AM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

Forlorn in VA: they very well may have edited it, but with respect to what?

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 05/09/11 at 10:12 PM ET [/quoteI missed the man-horse sentence when I read the article last night that I spotted when I read it again this morning.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 05/10/11 at 06:56 AM ET

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Just reading about this fiasco this morning. Wow.

I think Uptown Hockey is going to need more than a consulting firm to get out of this mess. The fact that they are standing behind their comments will make it difficult to believe (or accept) any kind of apology they might issue should they decide to pull an about-face on this whole situation.

I’m curious to see how the company’s clients react to this situation.

Posted by Briney on 05/10/11 at 09:48 AM ET

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Here’s some of the rub; they seem to believe that this is still a controversial issue even in Canada - are they aware that it’s actually been legal for eight years in Ontario?

Posted by rei on 05/10/11 at 09:57 AM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

I don’t agree with uptown hockey or the Reynolds clan on this issue. Applause to Avery for taking a stand that is courageous, as a pro athlete, to take.

(somewhat alarming that he says he ‘treats everyone the way he would like to be treated though!’)

As for uptown, I think their clients - even the ones who may privately agree with the substance of the comments they made - will have to evaluate how they are being represented. While I don’t disentitle Reynolds to his (incorrect) personal opinions; I still think that as a person who has made a profession of representing others, he’s shown very poor judgment. Clearly these comments - made through the agency itself - will be reflected back onto clients. I’m pretty sure players aren’t paying their agents to draw them into thorny politcal debates.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 05/10/11 at 02:34 PM ET

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Good discourse folks. Thanks for the tip on the link Mr. Malik. I believe I heard Brian Burke’s son Patrick will be on TSN Radio tonight. That’s likely worth a listen as well to anyone who is interested in this story.

Now, my two cents after 24 hours of this:

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 07:07 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.

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