Ex-Sharks employee on surviving sexual harassment, hockey culture
Anytime is a good time to talk about the frustrating aspects of hockey culture. Unfortunately, we tend not to in sports media, often for fear of repercussions.
A recent Victory Press article from Jen Ramos, a digital media intern for the San Jose Sharks in 2013, pointed to the repercussions they faced for speaking out against hockey culture in 2014, when they accused a “popular writer” of sexual harassment. It is a must read.
Their post made me think of what I have seen in my two years with the company.
While outside the hockey environment the world is still coming to terms with the fact that it should be acceptable for victims to speak out without repercussions, in the hockey world we are far behind. While there are a lot of people willing to listen and it feels like people are willing to show their support, at the end of the day, maintaining ties and making sure people in the industry don’t are not uncomfortable are always on top of everything. Especially considering that within organizations and even in an independent world, there are power dynamics that always loom.
Personal experiences should not be backfired and no one should be afraid of being effectively shunned for speaking out. Whether or not you agree with the person sharing their story or want to help share someone else’s story, there is a discussion to be had. With effective listening and a willingness to see past friendships or organizational loyalties, these discussions will improve hockey culture as a whole and make it a more welcoming environment for everyone. Who knows, maybe it would even allow us to start learning how to start fixing the cracks and breakdowns in communication and creating a new generation of hockey that can actually be for everyone.
It’s not just about hockey players, coaches and managers.
Hockey culture as it relates to players, such as the 2018 World Juniors Team Canada scandal, has come under scrutiny, but players aren’t the only ones who own “hockey culture.” Fans and even members of the media should be held to the same standards that we seek to uphold for athletes and this should be able to be done without repercussion to those who speak out.
Ramos’ story, after all, is not about the players, but about another member of the media who harassed them and other members of the media who shunned them.
We remain in a society where those who use their voice to discuss ugly things that have happened are instead treated as if they are the problem. While we seem to have learned to have some respect for anonymous victims or those with very public and large-scale stories, those who speak out within our own circles tend to be closed off or brushed aside.
To some extent, the hockey community has improved by leaps and bounds even in the last decade, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Whether it’s within organizations, in online communities like Hockey Twitter, or in person, there’s a right way to treat people, and especially in the world of hockey, we seem to not remember it. Unfortunately, this drives quality people – like Jen Ramos – away from the sport and ultimately stunts the growth we all want to see for hockey as a whole.
Hockey should be for everyone, not just those who avoid rocking the boat.
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