There’s a long history of statements from a team or athlete that look bad in context. Many of those are then followed by a statement that says “We were unaware of the context.” But it’s exceptionally rare to see an organization say a player was unaware of the history involved, only for the player themselves to admit they were. That’s what happened with Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price this week, though.
This all started with an Instagram post from Price complaining about amendments to the current proposed gun control legislation in Bill C-21. That included Price posing with a gun that would not be banned under this bill while backing lobby group The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.
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A statement in support of hunting from Price would not have been controversial. Price is a member of the Ulkatcho First Nation, and his mother is a former chief there. He grew up in the small community of Anahim Lake in British Columbia, and he’s long spoken about the importance of hunting to him. And some hunters do have concerns with the amendments to this ongoing bill.
But it’s Price’s citation of the CCFR that drew particular fire here. That group recently offered a “POLY” discount code on their website. That seems like a message that’s highly insensitive for an athlete in Montreal to endorse, especially ahead of Tuesday’s 33rd anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre in that city.
That massacre saw a man with a legally-obtained gun kill 14 women and injure 10 more women and four men. It remains a highly-discussed flashpoint in Canadian history, and its anniversary each year is commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. So it’s somewhat understandable why the Canadiens‘ initial organizational response here was “He didn’t know”:
Kristin's correct. There's nothing wrong with Carey Price — or any athlete — voicing opinions or raising concerns about issues he finds important.
— Alheli Picazo (@a_picazo) December 5, 2022
This also came with some comments defending Price, and his supposed unawareness of the significance of the Polytechnique massacre, from Canadiens’ head coach Martin St. Louis:
“I’m not sure Carey knows the full story [of the Montreal massacre]. I remember it clearly; I was a boarding student at Collège Notre-Dame. I was 14 and it really shook me,” St-Louis told reporters Monday afternoon.
The private college is next to the Université de Montréal campus where Polytechnique, the university’s engineering school, is and where the mass shooting took place.
“I’m not sure people outside of Quebec know all about it. Carey’s a sensitive guy, he’s a family guy. I don’t think the post was made with malicious intentions,” St-Louis added.
The thing is, though, that’s not really what happened. On Tuesday, Price (seen above warming up ahead of an April 23 game) revealed he was aware of that massacre. And he apologized for his post’s timing relative to it.
On Tuesday, Price posted an update to his Instagram page.
“I think the people of Montreal know my heart and my character and know I would never intentionally cause pain to those impacted by gun violence,” he wrote.
“Despite a previous statement released, I did in fact know about the tragedy. I have been a member of the MTL community for 15 years and I understand the weight this day holds within the community.”
Price said he stood by the opinions he shared but acknowledged that “amplifying any conversation around guns this week may have upset some of those impacted most by the events here in 1989 and to them I apologize.”
There’s some credit due to Price for coming clean here and admitting that the ignorance the team said he possessed was not actually the case. But this also helps to show how many “they didn’t know” statements don’t always hold up.
The situation also helps to show how important it is for a team or organization to make sure that’s actually true, rather than just going with the most defensible explanation of controversial comments.
The Price situation here was bad enough in the first place, but the Canadiens made it worse with what proved to be a bungled PR response.
[CBC; photo from Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports]