Leadership failure: Chicago Blackhawks organization and NHLPA

Inaction when faced with an allegation of sexual assault

Chicago Blackhawks organization 20-year-old Kyle Beach filed a complaint against the team in May 2021, alleging he was sexually assaulted by the team’s video coordinator in May 2010, then that the team was involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Senior Blackhawks management, including its president, general manager and head coach, were made aware of the assault shortly after it occurred and chose not to promptly investigate the assault. allegations, to protect or respond to the player, or to discipline the employee involved. .

The fallout from electing the squad to put that issue aside and instead focus on the playoffs was – – sadly – – predictable. Video coach Brad Aldrich has been allowed to remain on the club‘s payroll for several months, receive a playoff bonus, have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup and quietly quit. As might be expected, this failure to effectively deal with this serious allegation, and to fire Aldrich for sexual misconduct, saw him secure a successive job at a private high school, where he allegedly assaulted and assaulted another teenage player.

Additionally, Beach also reportedly timely reported the assault to the National Hockey League Players ‘Association and its officers, including executive director Donald Fehr, and the players’ union took no action to protect the player or help him assert his legal rights. In an interview with Canadian sports network TSN, Beach said of Fehr: “Let him turn his back on the players, when his only job is to protect the players at all costs. I don’t know how that can be your boss. He was supposed to have the players’ backs, and they sure didn’t have mine.

Following Beach’s lawsuits against the Blackhawks and a high school gamer who was sexually assaulted in Michigan, the organization hired a former deputy U.S. prosecutor to conduct a full investigation. The report concluded that “no action was taken for three weeks” after senior Blackhawks were made aware of the unwelcome sexual activity and the alleged sexual assault by the video trainer. This lack of response was a violation of the team’s own policy on sexual harassment – which required that all reports of sexual harassment be investigated “promptly and thoroughly.”

Based on the findings of that investigation, managing director Stan Bowman was forced to resign and his senior deputy was fired. Former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quennville, who became head coach of the Florida Panthers, summarily resigned from his post in Florida following a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman . The NHL also imposed a substantial fine on the Blackhawks.

This sordid story tells the story of a sports team prioritizing conquest over the well-being of a young player to whom it had a moral duty and a responsibility. It is also a union of players who seem to have failed in one of its main missions – – the well-being of the players. The consequences of these failures include legal action, the end of several management careers, an avalanche of negative publicity and an embarrassing distraction for the team, the league and the sport. Kudos to Beach for their courage in coming forward and approaching the unfortunate situation in a brutally honest and straightforward manner.

The message for sports teams and employers is generally to be aware of your existing policies regarding sexual harassment and other forms of employee misconduct, to involve human resources professionals as soon as they become aware of it. such events and seek their advice and guidance, promptly and thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct, offer advice or assistance to affected employees, be prepared to discipline or terminate responsible parties , and be aware of any reporting responsibilities that may exist under state law or other regulations. Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to conduct in-depth investigations, to help guide employers through such difficult situations, and to provide advice on appropriate employment decisions and other corrective actions.

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