Having been at the General Manager’s meeting yesterday (Tuesday) in Toronto…I was impressed by the G-M’s unity in their desire to remove head hits from the game. They recognized that everyone loses when players are injured as a result of head hits…deliberate or not. It was a solid show of progressive thinking.
But then they went and took two steps backwards…when it comes to players using social mediums like Twitter and Facebook.
Look…I understand the league wanting to be careful about what players and officials say when it comes to talking about league business…and I’m also completely aware of how these mediums have been responsible recently for disseminating inaccurate stories.
Having said that….the discussion of implementing a league policy on what players or officials can or cannot say on Twitter and Facebook….is irrelevant in a very important area…the legality of censoring what an individual opines on his or her personal website.
If a player or official is using an NHL-sponsored Twitter or Facebook website…then fine…you have to follow the rules of the owner of that website.
But if the league is trying to tell an individual…be it a player or official….what they can or cannot say on their private Twitter or Facebook site…..this is where the legality issue comes in.
It’s about a little thing called Freedom of Expression…and it’s a right that’s held dearly in both Canada and the United States.
I’m not talking about disseminating racist…homophobic or misogynistic speech. There’s hate-crime legislation in both countries to deal with that.
I’m talking about a player or official voicing his or her views on league happenings.
If Joe Thornton doesn’t agree with his 2-game suspension as a result of his hit on David Perron….to voice this on his Twitter or Facebook page is his right. He’s not promoting hate…he’s simply voicing his disagreement with the decision.
If a General Manager doesn’t agree with a particular league rule…he can’t say so on a league-sponsored site…but the views he espouses on his private social media site are just…his own…and he can state them as he pleases.
Obviously I recognize that if you get on your own site and tear your own company to bits you do so at the risk of being fired. A company or corporation has the right to fire any employee who goes public to reveal its private workings….or policies on a private website….and/or proceeds to critically tear his or her company a new one…but it cannot demand that employees not have those private sites…or that it has the right to outline what that employee can say on them. All it can do is outline the ramifications of revealing certain information publicly…or putting the company in a negative light through criticisms…and the fact that those ramifications could include loss of job…benefits etc.
I’m going to be very curious to see what the league finally decides on as far as a social medium policy goes….and I’m going to be even more curious to see where the Player’s Association weighs in on that policy.
You heard it here first….if it’s a policy that tells players what they can and cannot say on their personal sites…there WILL be an eventual challenge to it…and it could end up in the courts.
About the Author: Lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan...even though I was born and raised in Toronto. I wish the NHL had a balanced schedule because I would love to see more western teams come to Toronto. Would love to see Quebec City return to the NHL.