Spin is an important word in journalism and Ron MacLean found that out this week. Commenting that a French-Canadian referee shouldn’t have been assigned to a Canadiens/Lightning game, Maclean stumbled into a Canadian faux-pas.
His comment was simpy referring to a first-round game where Tampa’s coach insisted a French-Canadian referee took favour over the home team, costing his team the win. When asked by his fellow commentator, Elliotte Friedman, Ron responded simply, “Just this time, after what happened in Game 3.”
The Canadiens ended up beating Tampa Bay 4-3 to sweep the series, advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
It’s unavoidable in eastern Canada to make any discriminatory-sounding comments towards the French speaking community. His comments were taken as offense that French-Canadian referees would play favourites. Understandably so but, in context, his words in reference to the ealier game in the series made sense. Enter: the media.
Gilles Duceppe, former leader of the Bloc Québécois, called MacLean’s comments “racist” and called for disciplinary action.
“He was not talking about a local referee; he was talking about a French referee, which is quite different and just unacceptable, and I think CBC should take measures to discipline MacLean,” Duceppe told Bernard St-Laurent, host of CBC Montreal’s Radio Noon program.
“First of all, I want to say I’m sorry. It’s divisive any time you become about French and English in our country. But I didn’t intend to go down that path,” he said.
Chuck Thompson, head of media relations for CBC has confirmed that MacLean will not face any disciplinary action.
“Ron’s comments were misunderstood as they had nothing to do with francophone referees. He was simply making the point that assigning a local referee was a questionable call by the league as it could have given the opposing team [in this case Tampa] an opportunity to cry foul had there been any controversial calls,” Thompson said.
“Ron apologized and clarified his remarks later in the broadcast, saying it would be no different if you assigned a ref from Alberta for a game involving Calgary or Edmonton playing another NHL team.”
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