Skip to main content

Centerplate CEO Des Hague in middle of despicable dog abuse scandal

Centerplate CEO Des Hague, who heads a major provider of stadium concessions for professional teams, finds himself in the midst of a despicable dog abuse scandal that should warrant greater consequences than a stiff fine and community service.

Don’t watch it.

No matter how many times the link comes across your Twitter feed or gets posted by someone you follow on Facebook, please do not click on it. If you see it atop any story, scroll down without clicking play.

It is too hurtful, too disgusting. You don’t need to see it.

Take my word that the video shows exactly what has been reported. It shows Des Hague, the very wealthy, powerful and important CEO of Centerplate, the $6 billion sports catering company that has NFL teams and others as clients, abusing a year old Doberman Pinscher named Sade. You don’t need to see Hague repeatedly kick the small, slender dog as it lies on the floor. You don’t need to see him yank on her leash, at one point pulling the dog upward so hard that she momentarily dangles off the ground. You don’t need to see that Hague does this in an elevator in a downtown Vancouver hotel, when the dog is essentially caged, when the poor animal can do nothing but take it.

The abuse lasts for 52 seconds, but it feels like 52 minutes. Trust me when I say watching it will ruin your day, your week.

But just because you don’t watch the video doesn’t mean you should not be outraged, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something. Begin by reading and parsing what Hague said about the incident.

In a statement, he called his actions “completely and utterly out of character.” This is, almost certainly, a load of crap. Animal abusers are rarely singular offenders. Michael Vick didn’t attend a single dogfight; he didn’t torture just one animal. To believe Hague’s statement is to believe the only time he has been cruel to Sade or another animal just happened to be the one time he was caught on video. Already, a spokeswoman from the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which now has possession of Sade, told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “The way [the dog] behaves certainly gives the indication of fearfulness, and that indicates she has received this treatment before.”

Hague also said in his statement: “a minor frustration with a friend’s pet caused me to lose control of my emotional response.” To be clear, there was nothing “minor” about what Hague did. The fact that a prosecutor is reviewing the incident for potential criminal charges makes it anything but “minor.” Further, if that is what Hague does when his frustration level is “minor,” what does he do when an animal really makes him mad?

FORTUNE: Will a dog-abuse scandal sink stadium caterer Centerplate?

But Hague isn’t only guilty of a poor word choice. He said in his statement that Sade belonged to a friend. That appears to be a bald-faced lie. “Our paperwork indicates that it was his dog,” the SPCA spokesperson told the Union-Tribune.

To review, Hague abused an animal and it may not have been the first time. He called what he did a “minor” frustration, and then said Sade wasn’t his when the SPCA believes she was. Hague may call his behavior “out of character,” but it sure seems like a giant window through which we’ve seen who he really is.

In response to Hague’s actions, Centerplate handed him a written censure, forced him to donate $100,000 to create the Sade Foundation, which will help protect animals in Vancouver, and said he will work 1,000 hours at an animal protection agency. That may sound like a stiff fine, but Hague earns millions a year. It may sound like a lot of community service, but surely Hague won’t be cleaning kennels. And, what animal protection agency would want a guy like Hague around their dogs? What if he experiences another “minor” frustration?

Hague will also reportedly undergo anger management counseling, the typical third leg -- fine + community service +​ counseling -- of damage control. That’s what a wealthy and/or famous person does when they want you to believe they've paid for what they’ve done, and when they want you to move on.

But please don’t move on.

Email Centerplate. Find them on Twitter and let them have it for continuing to employ Hague. Sign one of the online petitions circulating that demand he lose his job. If in the coming days Centerplate still employs Hague, find the team or stadium near you that has a contract with the company. Email or Tweet at them writing that you won’t patronize an organization working with Centerplate. The sad reality is the company will employ Hague until he becomes a potential drain on its bottom line. Make that so.

If you feel that is harsh, if you don’t feel sufficiently outraged, or, if you just are somebody who doesn’t like to make waves, well, ignore what I said at the start.

Watch the video. Watch it again and again.