Patrick Kane is finally, fully in the clear.
Or is he?
Seven months after allegations of his committing a sexual assault in his suburban Buffalo home did not result in legal charges being brought against him, the Chicago Blackhawks superstar has been cleared by the NHL after its investigation concluded that those allegations were "unfounded."
In a perfect world, the 27-year-old winger would now be able to leave this ugly episode behind. But that might not be an option anymore for the NHL's most polarizing figure ... at least judging by the vitriol that has dominated social media since the league released its findings on Wednesday afternoon.
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A quick look at SI's own accounts in the wake of our current cover story by S.L. Price about Kane's MVP-caliber season on the ice while he tries to regain control of his troubled personal life off it (principals in the incident were asked to comment about what happened on the night in question and during the investigation; some, such as Kane, the accuser and her attorney, declined to respond even after repeated requests by SI)—reveals a seething residual anger.
The accusations made against Kane were horrific, to be sure, and magnified by recent cases of domestic violence in other sports, particularly the NFL. Serious issues were immediately raised: the bedrock legal principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty vs. respect for the accuser and her right to be taken seriously; the impact of fame, wealth and reputation on a criminal investigation; and overarching concerns about the treatment of women in and around the game of hockey.
Sides were quickly drawn. On one, there were people who believed that Kane, given his checkered past of partying and his minor run-in with the law after a 2009 incident with a cab driver, was surely guilty of something, if not the very worst. On the other were those who believed his accuser was a mere gold-digger. Any attempt to point out that there was a serious gray area in the incident was met with accusations of dismissing the alleged victim outright, if not shaming her, and whitewashing the superstar.
Somewhere in the middle were those who believed that Kane deserved to carry on with his life until legal circumstances dictated otherwise, and those who were concerned that the NHL would clumsily handle this serious matter the way the NFL mishandled the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy cases. That second group (myself included), who thought it was best for the league and the Blackhawks to take a cautious approach and send Kane home until the matter was resolved, were branded as having convicted him without trial or evidence.
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