If you are going to call a person a racist, you better have a damn good reason.
Pointing out the possible perception of impropriety by having a home city referee officiate a game is not a good reason to be labeled a racist. And to not consider the source of such statements is not just unfair, but decidedly lazy as well.
Ron MacLean mused aloud during a recent broadcast that the league should have thought twice about assigning a French referee at a game in Montreal. In the previous game, a French referee disallowed a Tampa Bay goal many thought should have counted, and MacLean thought the appearance of having another hometown referee the next game showed bad optics. It was a rather benign statement, unless you get off on calling someone a racist, which apparently is a widespread problem in this country.
Twitter twits, desperate newspaper columnists and surface-scratchers all lined up to take their shots at a guy most people view as a decent man. It was as if he had screamed the n word or denied the Holocaust. But of course, all MacLean did was say that perhaps a referee change would be prudent.
He was right, by the way. Assigning a referee from Philadelphia to ref a game in Philadelphia, or a referee from Detroit refereeing a Red Wings game, is a needless risk. Sure, there may be a miniscule chance that the referee would plot to cheat or subconsciously call the game to the home city’s advantage, but that risk doesn’t exist in the first place if the league was more proactive.
MacLean apologized on air the very night he made the comments, probably sensing the avalanche of alarmists and not wanting to have to hold a press conference explaining how sorry he was if people completely butchered his words. He has been railroaded and defended. The loudest group, of course, are those who define themselves through their relentless defense of all things moral, a delicious irony given their reluctance to see the bigger and more accurate picture, placing their motivations in a murky moral swamp at best.
Ron MacLean is not a racist or a provocateur, he just sits beside a reputed one on TV.