It's safe to say that Morgan Rielly didn't watch the Super Bowl this year. Or if he did, he wasn't paying attention to the commercials.
If he had, Rielly might have avoided stepping into a social media minefield on Friday.
Asked about the struggles of his Toronto Maple Leafs, the young defenseman told reporters that a positive approach and a strong work ethic during this tough time were key to getting through it. Then he added this:
“You're not here to be a girl about it.”
You know what Rielly was trying to say, and you know he wasn't trying to be demeaning. But that doesn't change the fact that he was, or that women have every right to take offense.
Overreaction? Not at all. Athletes have used being female as a pejorative for decades. It's become shorthand for being weak or emotional or lacking mental toughness.
Of course, that's a load of crap, which is exactly the concept that the Super Bowl “Like A Girl” ad sought to reinforce by turning the insulting phrase around to highlight the abilities of young women. It's a noble campaign but as Rielly's casually sexist remark reminds us, it is one that has plenty of work ahead.
A mistake was made here, but that doesn't mean Rielly should be excoriated over it. Instead, the focus should be on a teaching moment, one where he and other players can be reminded that sort of language insults the women in our lives—our wives, our mothers, our daughters and fans of the game.
He'll learn from this—he's already issued an apology—and hopefully the conversation he started will help other players do the same.
And if anyone needs a reminder of what "being a girl about it" can mean, they can check this out.