This week the Erie County District Attorney announced that no rape charges would be filed against NHL star Patrick Kane after the complainant, 21 years-old, said she was under such tremendous stress that she could no longer cooperate with police. Thus ended a three-month long investigation, launched when the woman reported to police that Kane raped her in his home in Hamburg, N.Y. This outcome was utterly predictable to anyone following the case, as the Erie County DA, the former Erie County DA, the former State Attorney General for New York, Chicago Tribune columnists, Deadspin, The Buffalo News and innumerable other sources have all insisted since September that the case has “too many questions” to move forward.
But I’m not interested in how many questions arose during the case. I’m honestly, truly, not interested in the DA citing Kane’s lack of “conduct consistent with a consciousness of guilt” as a reason to withhold charges, something he’d have to be eagle-eyed to notice given that Kane’s been playing in Chicago for most of the investigation.
The details of the investigation don’t matter. His innocence or guilt is not the point. The point is this: Patrick Kane was under investigation for rape and we, the fans, decided it was okay for him to play.
Let’s be clear: Patrick Kane is an important cog in a Stanley Cup winning machine. The Chicago Blackhawks have won three of the last six NHL championships with Kane, where he’s won a Conn Smythe trophy and consistently logged over 20 points a postseason. It’s no stretch to say that there would be a few less banners hanging from the rafters of the United Center if Kane weren’t around, and not so many goose bumps from watching a new one hoisted up.
Winning is fun, right? It’s the goal, it’s why we pay to watch. So the more Kane and the Blackhawks win, the more valuable they become. Forbes reports that the team’s value has increased almost 650 million dollars since signing Kane in 2007. He’s never played for another NHL team. He’s got a No-Movement clause and a 13 million dollar salary, plus all those trophies–Patrick Kane IS Chicago’s boy. Fans and management know he’ll take us where we want to be: the top.
That’s what makes us fans so powerful. Following the allegations we could have taken that support away. But on the first day of training camp people flocked to the rink at 5 a.m. wearing No. 88 jerseys, cheering defiantly each time he touched the puck. In an article for the Chicago Tribune, one fan said he chose a Kane jersey over one of Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews’ because, while “I have a daughter, so I get the other side of the whole rape thing,” he wanted to show that he’s a “big believer in the Blackhawks organization.” What the hell, man?
Look, fans of any sports franchise need to make a decision about how they want to win. We can’t control the media perpetuating rape culture by hawking the case’s details as excuses for Kane’s playing. We can’t control the police’s relationship with Kane. We can’t make a DA file charges. We certainly can’t pressure victims to act.
What we can do is tell the Blackhawks that this isn’t the culture we “believe” in. I’m not asking anyone to stop being a fan. But rooting for the Blackhawks isn’t the same as rooting for Patrick Kane, and it doesn’t mean excusing shit behavior. Wouldn’t it be better to beat the Flyers knowing we were the good guys? Wouldn’t you rather wear the sweater of a player who’s known for being a joker or a baker or, I dunno, just good at hockey? Wouldn’t you rather imagine the cup in hands that definitely haven’t sexually assaulted someone?
C’mon, all sports fans are competitive assholes. When stuff like this happens, stop wearing your No. 88 jerseys. Don’t cheer for Kane. Skip the games he’s scheduled to play. Don’t watch his videos, don’t listen to his interviews. Write to the Trib and tell them to stuff it. Demand an NHL–demand a team–that values the experiences of women. We don’t need a suspected rapist to play good hockey. There’s a better win to be had, here, and we should relish the challenge. And, go Hawks.