Who knew that New York Rangers hockey-goon and serial dater Sean Avery had such a soft spot for relationships? The abrasive and controversial NHL winger appeared in an ad this week endorsing same-sex marriage for the Human Rights Campaign's New Yorkers for Marriage Equality drive. Now Avery is garnering criticism for standing up for the group's message.
Avery might seem like an odd choice to appear in the video, along with former-President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actors Julianne Moore and Sam Waterston, which advocates gay marriage.
"I treat everyone the way that I expect to be treated, and that includes marriage," said Avery.
It would have been easier for Avery to stump for other popular, cut-and-dry social issues like safe-sex or drug use, but he took a position that even the most ardent Avery fans might not accept.
The tough guy is promoting an issue that no other New York pro-athlete has publicly talked about--never mind openly supported--and Avery is getting roundly applauded by gay and lesbian groups around the country. But Avery's stand is not coming with out it's detractors.
Avery's view drew a barrage of critical tweets from hockey agent Todd Reynolds. The vice-president of the Ontario-based Uptown Sports Management company represents about 10 NHL players including Nashville Predators Mike Fisher--husband of singer Carrie Underwood--called Avery's appearance in the ad "wrong."
"I'm very sad to read Sean Avery's misguided support of same-gender marriage, legal or not, it will always be wrong," said Reynolds. " I believe in voicing your opinion and not being part of the silent majority. If Sean Avery, or another player, can comment on one side of the discussion, then I'm in hockey 24/7, why can't I comment on it as well?"
Other agents and players were more acceptable of Avery's stance.
Phoenix Coyotes winger Paul Bissonette tweeted, " I agree with Sean Avery and his comments on same-sex marriage..If 2 people are happy together let them be happy."
Agent Scott Norton told the New York Daily News, "I'm shocked that an agency would come out and have those views publicly, when you're speaking not only for yourself and your employees, but the people you represent and the sport you represent."
The potty-mouthed Avery might be the last person anyone would consider politically correct, but his support may be louder than a cross-check to the boards.
In the world of professional men's sports, homosexuality is still a forbidden topic. It is one of the last major barriers waiting to be knocked down. The F-word hangs like a scarlet letter in every locker room and, even in the heat of a game, the utterance could have dire consequences. Look at the huge fine levied on Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant for mouthing the word on national TV two weeks ago.
No star-athlete from a major sport has ever come out. Only a few lesser-knowns have come out after their playing days are over.
Without Avery, this ad would have probably been lost in the glut of public service announcements. Maybe the most unlikely of spoke persons, a pro hockey player, will give gay-marriage the high-profile it never would have received by going to a new audience who normally care more about skating rinks than wedding rings.