When Patrick Kane showed up at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp last week, a heated debate began immediately concerning whether or not he should be there.
Those saying Kane had every right to be with his teammates argued that he had not been charged with any crime and deserved the same rights as any other person in any other line of work who faced the same circumstances. Hard to argue with that. After all, the presumption of innocence is one of the underpinnings of any criminal justice system.
Others were appalled by the Blackhawks decision to have Kane back at work. They argued that the team was sending all the wrong messages by allowing Kane to participate in training camp. The league has the latitude to suspend Kane, using Article 18-A.5 of the collective bargaining agreement, but has not. Those who opposed Kane’s presence in camp in light of the seriousness of the sexual assault allegations facing him thought the league should have used its authority to make a statement and rid the league of another distraction. And they had a point, too.
The league has had, and continues to have, the right to suspend Kane at any point during this process. And after what can only be classified as an extremely bizarre turn of events, the league has decided it will allow Kane to continue to participate in the Blackhawks training camp. Even though this case has progressed to a sublime level of weirdness, the league is standing by its decision.
Let’s start with a brief synopsis of the events: Kane is the subject of a rape investigation stemming from an incident at his suburban Buffalo home in the off-season, but has yet to be charged with anything. The lawyer for the accuser, Thomas J. Eoannou, produced supposed evidence of tampering charges Wednesday, claiming the rape kit administered to the woman was left opened and empty on her mother’s doorstep. The initials of both the nurse and the victim, as well as the victim’s personal information, were on the bag. He then talked of “victim blaming,” pointing out that this kind of thing is a classic example of why rape victims are so hesitant to come forward.
Kane’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, responded by saying, “I think my client is a victim in this case.”
Then, if all the victim blaming and accusations from both sides and a postponed grand jury weren’t enough, John Glasscott, the Erie County Commissioner of Central Police Services, came out with a statement of his own, which read: “All evidence related to this case that was given to Erie County Central Police Services by the Town of Hamburg Police Department is accounted for and remains in its original packaging in the possession of the Erie County Police Services. This includes evidence in the rape kit and the packaging itself. The evidence has been analyzed and reports of the analysis sent to the appropriate agencies.”
Well, that’s good then. That explains everything.
So now the league is stuck in a situation in which it cannot win. If it continues to allow Kane to play and practice with the Blackhawks, it risks alienating those who think it is not reacting appropriately to a very serious allegation of sexual assault. And if it suspends Kane, it will be accused of having a knee-jerk reaction and taking action before all the facts are known.
So in the absence of any sanity at all in this situation, the league is allowing Kane to stay. And that’s as it should be.
Because when it comes down to it, the NHL had absolutely nothing to do with what transpired, one way or another, in Patrick Kane’s home the night of Aug. 2. It can’t do anything about the fact that Kane hired as his lawyer a man who would allow himself to be photographed and filmed with a mug commemorating Hustler’s 40th anniversary and something called “Money Soap” in the background. It has no control over the innuendo, allegations and now, skullduggery that have dominated the narrative of this event.
People can talk all they want about whose DNA was where, but what this case really comes down to is consent. Kane’s DNA could be present, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate rape. Or it could not, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate there wasn’t a rape. Assuming something happened between Kane and his accuser, either consent was given and Kane is guilty of nothing more than an error in judgment or it was not and he is guilty of a crime. Nobody but Kane and his accuser knows the truth and instead of getting closer to finding out what it is, we all seem to be getting further away.
None of this is the NHL’s fault. Patrick Kane still has not been charged with anything. Until he is, the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks have every right to continue to employ him. It’s difficult to say the NHL and the Blackhawks are doing the right thing here because in a case this strange, there doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong way to handle this. The league and the Blackhawks did not ask for any of this.