Nick Cousins is 19 years old, was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 NHL entry draft and is currently playing junior with the OHL Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, also known as the Soo Greyhounds. He’s talented on the ice–right now, he has 88 points in 55 games–but has watched from the sidelines as he was left out of tryouts for three different prestigious events for junior players. He didn’t play in the Canada-Russia Subway Super Series, he wasn’t invited to Canada’s tryout camp for the World Junior Championship and he didn’t get invited to the truncated Flyers training camp this year.
In trying to find out why, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News published a defense of Cousins that reads as tone-deaf, offensive and excuses the young Cousins for allegedly doing something that could land him in a heap of legal trouble.
I say allegedly because, while Cousins and two of his Soo teammates were arrested and charged with sexual assault in August, they have not yet had their day in court. The three of them have the right to a trial and to face a judge, if the case even goes that far. That’s just how the justice system works and the right way to refer to charges that have not yet gone through the courts.
But the way Seravalli just briefly mentions the charges against Cousins, waiting until at least halfway through his article to do so, isn’t quite right. He explains to his readers that “Cousins and two teammates were arrested on Aug. 25 for having sexual intercourse with an unnamed woman, known to the players, against her will.”
Why is the fact that the unnamed woman was apparently an acquaintance of the players so important that it deserves to be placed before the fact that she did not consent? Even if the young lady happened to be the best and closest of friends with these three young men, if she said no or was unable to consent–I do not know the full details, nor does Seravalli–that means no. Simple as that.
Seravalli goes on to explain that Cousins took some counseling and the Greyhounds welcomed him back to the lineup before calling it “the embarrassing situation” that reflects badly on Cousins and both of his teams.
But then Ian Laperriere, the Flyers’ director of development and a former player who’s been there, done that and is tasked with showing young guys the ropes, comes in and says something that can be read as excusing what happened.
“Let’s be honest, stuff like that has been happening forever. You can’t get away with anything now. He can’t put himself in those situations,” he said, quoted by Seravalli.
Laperriere, of course, later backpedaled and claimed that he was taken out of context, it was misquoted, it was lost in translation, he never meant to say that people have been getting away with sexual assault and so on and so forth. He might as well have just gone for broke and added the classic “I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said” faux apology. However, even if he did get misquoted, the way Seravalli chose to structure his article is another story altogether.
Thankfully, the criticism of this article has been swift and unforgiving. “Why is the [Laperriere] quote even in there, except to make Cousins seem like a victim?” asked Bower Power from Pension Plan Puppets.
“[The] issue with this isn’t even Cousins’ guilt. It’s the Laperriere quote and the casualty of the article in discussing the situation,” said Ryan Lambert of the Puck Daddy blog.
“We can’t treat women as afterthoughts anymore…we owe it to every woman in our lives to speak out harshly about sexual assault. Silence and/or excuses are part of the problem,” said Adam Proteau from The Hockey News.
Seravalli took to Twitter himself to defend the way he explained the charges by saying that since the charges are for sexual assault, that’s the term he needs to use. The only problem is that he didn’t use that term at all when he very well could have. He used some convoluted way of saying it that prioritized the woman’s prior relationship over what the three men allegedly did wrong. That was the wrong way to report on the situation and a mistake on his part.
You know, it might even be an embarrassing situation.