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Marchment case: OHL should do more to stop sexual harassment, expert says

Marchment [1]

Bulls captain Jake Marchment has issued an apology for his insulting comments to a woman on Tinder. Photo via the Ontario Hockey League

By Alisa Howlett [2]

BELLEVILLE – The Ontario Hockey League [3] should do more to prevent sexual harassment, says an expert on gender issues in sports.

Marchment texts [4]

Bulls captain Jake Marchment sent insulting messages on Tinder to a woman, using the phone of teammate Chad Heffernan.

The comments come after the 15-game suspension of the Belleville Bulls [5]‘ captain, Jake Marchment [6], who sent inappropriate messages to a woman on social media.

Marchment [6], who was named captain this year, sent insulting messages to a woman on Tinder [7] from the phone of another Bulls player, Chad Heffernan [8]. Marchment has since apologized on Twitter [9].

The team has a strict social-networking policy, team general manager George Burnett [10] said Wednesday, and takes the case very seriously.

“Certainly a line has been crossed here,” he said.

Burnett said he feels Marchment was sincere when he made comments accepting responsibility and apologizing on Twitter.

“Jake’s comments were very clear. He has put his team, his teammates and the city of Belleville in a situation (that) he’s not proud of,” he said. “He’s a young man that’s made a mistake and he’s taken full responsibility for that.”

But Marcia Milne, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Windsor [11] who focuses on gender issues in sports, told QNet News that Burnett’s statement feeds into the problem. “A young man that’s made a mistake” is just a nice way of saying “boys will be boys,” Milne said.

“At what point is that going to stop?” she asked. “This (time) it was just a text message. What if it escalates to something further? Will that still be boys being boys?”

Social-media misconduct is not the issue here, Milne said.  The OHL should require all players to participate in sexual-harassment and hazing workshops at the beginning of the season, she said.

“Maybe the entire team needs to go through some kind of behavioural modification to see where this is coming from and how it can be stopped so this doesn’t happen again.”

Milne said she definitely thinks the discipline needs to be more severe. She also said an apology on Twitter is not enough.

“Does he actually think he has done something wrong? Do we know if he actually realizes what he has done? Or is this just the knee-jerk reaction to ‘Oh jeez, I got caught, so I better say the right things so I will be able to continue playing’?”

A similar situation surfaced recently with another OHL player. Greg Betzold [12] of the Peterborough Petes [13] has also been suspended for 15 games for his actions on Tinder.

“It’s almost as if they’re not learning … We have this trend with athletes, especially male athletes, of putting them on a pedestal and we almost cater to their every whim. So there is a sense of entitlement where they can do anything they want,” Milne said. “When that doesn’t happen for them it almost turns ugly.”

Hockey players are praised for being dominant, aggressive, and in control while they are on the ice and this bleeds into their everyday life, Milne said. However, no one is addressing this kind of behaviour when they are off the ice, she added. A line needs to be established so these young players know what is acceptable behaviour where and when, she said.

Milne also said a proper punishment for this kind of behaviour needs to be established.

Marchment was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings [14] National Hockey League [15] team earlier this year. Milne said this is exactly why these kinds of problems need to be addressed by the OHL.

Marchment “got caught. You don’t even know how prevalent this is within the (OHL). This is something that the league should address because this is the pool that is going to be picked from to go to the NHL … and there’s even more pressure added on top of that.”

Such behaviour can be a precursor for something physical or sexual later on if it’s not controlled, Milne added.

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