Coincidentally, I wrote yesterday about the great leadership in the Vancouver Canucks’ past. Today, I’ll briefly write about the great leadership of the present. And I’m not (just) talking about present captain Bo Horvat.
In the last 24 hours, here’s what’s happened: Today, there will be an anti-mask rally. This one is being called the “B.C. Christmas Freedom Rally 2020”, and will take place, as usual, in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery… the usual anti-mask, anti-vaxx, covid-is-a-hoax crowd. The guy who has been singing the national anthems at Canucks games for 20 years, Mark Donnelly, announced that he’s not only going to attend the event, but also perform there as well… and not just the national anthem.
The Canucks didn’t like that at all, and issued a statement distancing themselves from the event, from Donnelly, from the whole sordid mess. Shortly after that, they officially announced that Donnelly is no longer affiliated with the team. And shortly after that, Francesco Aquilini, the managing partner of the Canucks ownership group, confirmed it… and Tweeted out a message to the Vancouver Sun, asking them to modify their headline, and to now refer to the anthem singer as “former”.
This isn’t the first time Mark Donnelly has tripped up. First of all, there was that time, back in 2014, where he literally tripped up; trying to sing the anthem while skating, he tripped over the red carpet and went flying. You can find it on YouTube, with millions of views. It’s worth seeing. But… more to the point… Donnelly showed up on the Art Gallery steps in 2012, singing the anthem at an anti-abortion rally.
If you’re wondering why that’s any different, and why that didn’t cost him his job, it’s very simple… and goes to the heart of this misunderstood thing called “freedom”. That poor word has been badly mangled, especially due to the American takeover of it and what it’s supposed to mean.
To be clear, being asked to wear a mask is not an infringement on your human rights. And facing consequences for you what you do and/or say is not a violation of your rights with respect to freedom of speech. You won’t get thrown in jail for criticizing the government, but actions have consequences, and if your actions affect other people, you can expect to be held responsible. Donnelly showing up at an anti-abortion rally? It tells you something about the man, but freedom of religion is a right, and if that’s how you think, as vehemently as anyone may disagree with you (including your employer), there’s nothing offside about it. But… aligning yourself with people promoting behaviour that puts everyone at risk?
As you can imagine, the reply thread to Aquilini’s Tweet is a complete shitshow… ranging from strong support to total outrage. “I’ve been a Canucks fan for 30 years, but now I’m cancelling my season tickets and will never watch another game!!1!!!!1!!!”… LOL.
It’s a smart move by Aquilini… there is no doubt this is the first time the vast majority of Canucks fans have agreed with him. But beyond that, the messaging. If you’re a public figure and/or your reach is into the hundreds of thousands, you actually have a responsibility… because the message you put out there gets listened to by a lot of people. It applies to the Canucks and it applies to Mark Donnelly. Because, for the 10 millionth time, this is a pandemic, and people spread it from one to another, and masks prevent that from happening.
Donnelly canceled himself. The Canucks… yes, I understand the business aspect of it… the Canucks want to be able to fill that building as soon as possible. They want to sell you tickets. They want to sell you beer and hotdogs and nachos and bottled water and 50/50 tickets and parking and swag. They want to sell you the whole live experience, because that’s how they make money. They also want things back to normal. And, the Canucks understand that when those seats get filled, they don’t want to see 18,910 people booing the anthem singer. Time to move on, and there’s already a strong movement to hand the role to Marie Hui, a very logical and deserving successor.
Or… this will sound a little self-serving, but I have a bit of a connection to the anthem singing at Rogers Arena… because over the last 20 years, I’ve made many efforts to get local talent onto the ice to do it. It’s worked out a few times, but it’s an uphill process, if for no other reason than the countless number of people who’d love the opportunity. There’s a lot of talent in this town… why not have 45 different anthem singers every season? Let’s mix it up a bit. Maybe it’s one more tiny little positive change that can emerge from this pandemic… sounds good to me.
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