Ron MacLean accused of homophobia after weird comment during Leafs game
Longtime Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean has apologized after making a joke that struck some as insensitive, if not downright homophobic, during Tuesday night's broadcast of Game 4 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
MacLean was bantering with sports analyst Kevin Bieksa during the second intermission of the game on Tuesday when they touched on the topic of a photo featuring three shirtless men.
"You have a photo of a guy with his tarp off, you're definitely positive for something," quipped MacLean before moving on to speak about something else.
Viewers took to Twitter immediately with criticism of the comment, suggesting that MacLean was being homophobic in suggesting that someone with a photo of shirtless men would "be positive" for something (that something taken by many to be HIV or AIDs).
it wasn’t ‘dicey’ wording, it was homophobic and cruel.— delia catherine wears a mask and is vaxxed (@deestweets23) May 26, 2021
MacLean clarified Wednesday afternoon that the remark was taken out of context and that by "testing positive" he was referring to testing positive for alcohol.
"Early in the show, we had a fun moment featuring a photograph of our colleague Anthony Stewart enjoying a rum party. That photo, along with a few others, sat on the shelf of Kevin Bieksa's set for the remainder of the night," said MacLean in a statement published to his own Twitter feed just before 3 p.m. Wednesday.
"In the second intermission, when Kevin quipped that he was 'the most positive person on our panel,' I directed viewers to that photo, using 'tarp off' (i.e. shirtless) to specify the picture with the rum bottle, and quipped, 'You'll be testing positive for something.' I meant the rum."
Nonetheless, MacLean said that he regrets what he said and apologized to viewers for what happened.
It’s no secret last night’s events were extremely disturbing. In all honesty, I can see why some folks are still perplexed at his explanation for the joke. However, I think Ron MacLean showed his understanding of the situation and acknowledges the mistake he made was hurtful. https://t.co/RAcOaPJvJg— Kened Sadiku💉 (@KenedSadiku) May 26, 2021
"First and foremost, I regret and apologize for what happened last night," read the statement.
"I understand that when others are within 'earshot' of a two-way conversation, the potential for misunderstanding exists. If you only heard that last line in isolation, I completely understand how that misunderstanding occurred," said the 61-year-old sportscaster.
"I am deeply sorry. The idea of language of intention, of personal responsibility — I have seen those concepts used as broad exoneration. It's not enough."
David Palumbo, vice-chair of an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization called You Can Play, told CBC Sports that he had spoken with MacLean Wednesday morning and that the HNIC host was "apologetic and took ownership" of what he'd said.
Twitter reviewing Ron MacLean’s comment last night is like reviewing a goal that may have been offside. It looks like it’ll be onside by a hair.— y - Ash (@ClendelWark) May 26, 2021
"I take him at his word," said Palumbo to the CBC in response to the controversy. "I've always known Ron to be a staunch ally when it comes to his historic support of the LGBTQ+ community."
"To his credit he reached out and took full ownership of what he said and that interaction. He provided some extra context to the comment and what was behind the comment. We then discussed the concept of language outside of two-way communication and between two parties and how that can be interpreted outside of the parties."
Calls for MacLean to be fired (like his former co-host Don Cherry was in 2019 for on-air remarks about immigrants and poppies) are simmering down, though many on Twitter remain angry over what they thought MacLean had meant.
"I've reached out to several guiding lights in the equity-seeking arena, my allies in the LGBTQ2S+ community, and to my co-workers to receive their wisdom and continue our joint effort to tend to the hearts of us all," said MacLean to viewers in his statement.
"I appreciate the power of the voices who spoke to me last night and this morning. It provides a sense of possibility. It's how change works."
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