Janssen is the NHL enforcer with New Jersey who's at the center of a maelstrom. He's the guy who did an interview with a radio show out of St. Louis called 'The Thom and Jeff Show'. It was first time he appeared on the show and the talk was replete with swearing and questionable remarks, which we gather is a staple of Thom and Jeff's routine.
These remarks were begun by the knuckleheads Thom and Jeff, with Janssen playing along by using foul language and agreeing to a homophobic statement and then adding to it. Let's skip the link and have you trust me - it was homophobic, and while Janssen was definitely baited to make his remarks - at the end of the day, he made them. But you know what? Good.
You Can Play: hockey against homophobia
Good it happened because now, thanks to the NHL, the Devils and even Janssen himself, we get to experience how far we've come. Good things have come of it, things that would not have occurred in the past, such as the league characterizing the remarks as unacceptable, the Devils releasing Janssen's apology on their website and Janssen expressing deep and sincere regret.
There was a time not so very long ago it would not even have been mentioned, the interview would have not even been considered to be something worth regretting or something harmful to gays and lesbians. Furthermore, the attitude of most would have been - so what.
But not anymore.
Janssen began his apology
by acknowledging he used poor judgement and went on from there: "I would like to apologize for my poor choice of language. The tone of the interview was very casual and off-color, and I lost focus on what is and is not acceptable and professional.
"I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language," he continued. "Moving forward, I hope to eliminate that type of language from my vocabulary. I would also like to take this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing, and for the gay community in general."
Patrick Burke and You Can Play
There may be some who consider that a self-serving apology and nothing more. But I happen to believe it and am even impressed that Janssen took "this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing." He didn't have to go that far and it shows an intelligence and an understanding of the issue, and it indicates that he does not lack compassion.
If you're not convinced by my response, perhaps the words of Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and the son of Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and brother of the late Brendan Burke, might convince you. Patrick and his father founded You Can Play, a group that aims to remove homophobia from hockey and that was started in honor of Brendan, who was gay. He spoke with Janssens about the interview.
"I had an excellent conversation with him. He was very upset about the entire thing. He was very contrite. I thought he was incredibly sincere. He talked a lot about his feeling on these issues, about gay teammates...gay friends, that type of thing. He said he got sucked in to the off-colour tone of the interview and was trying to play along and make the interviewers happy. He said he immediately regretted it. He got in his car afterward and immediately felt like, ‘Oh, that was dumb,’” Burke told the media.
Burke went on to say that he was happy with Janssen's response and he feels that “...athletes should be given a chance to respond to the mistakes they make and we should judge them based on their response” and that in his view, Janssen comes out of this worthy of our forgiveness.
Given how he stepped up and turned it around, he's also worthy of our admiration.