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How Not to Use Corporate Twitter: Promoting Homophobia in Sports

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New York Rangers winger Sean Avery cuts a pretty loathsome figure on the ice. The 31-year-old Canadian has proven himself throughout his irritating career to be a world-class instigator, a first-class agitator. In nine years in the NHL and WHA, Avery’s racked up more than 1,500 minutes of time in the penalty box. He’s the ultimate pest, a guy you love to have on your team acting the thorn in your opponent’s side, a guy you absolutely hate to play against.

Off the ice, the cocksure provocateur also enjoys a double life as a fashionista, even interning for Vogue following the 2008 season. He’s also a staunch advocate for LGBT rights, an ally in an industry desperately in need of allies. In a storied career of standing up to the opponent’s toughest tough guy, his on-camera appearance in support of New Yorkers for Marriage Equality last week was one of the most courageous things he could have done. Homophobia and the overuse of gay slurs remain rampant in hockey’s locker rooms, and Avery really put himself out there by taking a stand in support of equality.

Uptown Sports Management Inc., a Canadian sports management and talent agency which represents some of hockey’s bright stars, didn’t take too kindly to Avery’s support of marriage equality. So someone within the company had the galactically dumb idea to attack Avery’s stance and the idea of gay marriage. UptownHockey on Monday afternoon tweeted: “Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage’. Legal or not, it will always be wrong.”

After a predictable backlash against the company began, Uptown then tweeted this about two hours later:

Minutes after that:

It hasn’t been 100% confirmed just yet who controls the Twitter feed, but all indications point to the company’s vice president, Todd Reynolds. The National Post reached out to Uptown’s president Don Reynolds, who’s also Todd’s father, to see whether or not he endorsed his son’s comments.

He dug the hole a little deeper:

“It’s sad. I mean, my personal position is that I do not support gay marriage, and I think it’s wrong, as well. It’s not politically correct to, I guess, give your opinion about a thing like that. It’s politically correct on the other side, for people to say, ‘sure, I support gay marriage.’ But the majority, I think, of Canadians would say that they don’t agree with gay marriage – that man and woman were created to be married, not man and man or man and horse, you know?”

Man and HORSE? This guy’s the new Rick Santorum, eh?

Sean Fitz-Gerald at The Post then asked whether the company’s afraid of a coming backlash or boycott:

“Um, you know, I’m not a person who gets afraid. I’m not afraid. I don’t know why Todd did that – if, in fact, he did do it. Kyle Dubas, who was with us up until just recently, he went to the be the general manager of the Soo Greyhounds, he controlled our Twitter account up until about a week or two ago. So I’m assuming that it was Todd that posted that. Oddly enough, I don’t get Twitter on my BlackBerry, so I wasn’t aware of it.”

We tried to reach both Todd and Don Reynolds for comment on this story. Our efforts to do so were ignored. As of post time, no more tweets have been issued by the @UptownHockey account.

As Outsports points out, one of Uptown’s clients is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Brenner. It’ll be interesting to see what happens between Uptown and Brenner and the Maple Leafs organization (Canadianly pronounced organ-eye-zation): “Brian Burke is the GM of the Maple Leafs and has become a strong advocate of gay equality since the coming out and untimely death of his son, Brendan.”

Everyone has the right to their opinions, to their beliefs. While many LGBT blogs and those in the gay community might want to lash out at Uptown, the bigger issue is one of corporate idiocy. It’s not so much that the Reynolds family is opposed to marriage equality — they’re certainly not alone in that opinion. It’s more that Todd Reynolds, or whomever was manning the Twitter controls yesterday, thought that it wouldn’t be a big deal if he used his company’s soapbox to stand up and profess such a negative message of hate for a group of people without regard for the consequences.

You can’t simply “clarify” by saying it’s a “personal viewpoint” when it’s coming directly from the mouthpiece of your company. Shit will rain down on you, Todd. You will hear from your detractors, you will face opposition for your intolerance, and it will impact your business. If you want to criticize Sean Avery, and marriage equality in general, it’s fairly simple to open a separate Twitter account for your personal beliefs. In fact, nearly 500,000 people do just that every day.

It’s unreasonable to think that everyone will fall in line with marriage equality. But it’s even more unreasonable to think that everyone will accept your company-endorsed intolerance. If Uptown loses clients because of these misguided tweets, it should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever owned a company and carefully cultivated the right image for their brand. It’s amazing what 140 characters can do when you use them for such silly reasons.

And if you missed it last week, here’s Sean Avery video, complete with his saying: “Committed couples should be able to marry the person they love. Join me in supporting marriage equality.”

Slade Sohmer is co-founder and editor-in-chief of HyperVocal. Follow him on Twitter @hypervocal.

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