Tuesday, December 04, 2007


You know what the beauty is of being in the position the Ottawa Senators enjoy in this city?

The Sens won't have to do one bit of butt-covering over their latest off-ice Adventures in Amateur Hour. That would be the revelation that proceeds from a charity raffle organized by the players' spouses were routed to an anti-abortion group that, according to CBC.ca's Heather Mallick, not a registered charity with Revenue Canada. The taxman tends to take a dim view of that.

(UPDATE: This seems to be in dispute.)

The Sens do a ton of good in the community, but as Mallick noted, fans ended up unwittingly donating to a cause that they might not support. Rule No. 1 of philanthropy: People should know what they're donating to. That didn't happen here.

This isn't about abortion. It's about being honest and doing your homework so you don't look like a bush-league operation and undermine your good works.

The Senators tapped into the goodwill they've built across 15 years to encourage people, in the spirit of the season, to donate on the pretense the Sens Foundation would in turn patronize a more appropriate charity (legit or not, a group that engages in divisive anti-women politics, is probably not one they should touch with a 10-foot hockey stick).

They failed to do due diligence (i.e., Google), and ended up with egg on their face when it was revealed that the anti-abortion group, according to Mallick, a former Globe & Mail columnist, is funded by a local church that is not only "anti-abortion but anti-birth control."


Good question that won't be asked: Odds are, almost all of the women who participated in this charitable effort have used some form of birth control. So reproductive rights are fine and dandy for the spouses of million-dollar-a-year athletes, but it's T.S. for less priviliged women?

The Senators organization has also supported the women's hockey program at Carleton and sponsored last year's CIS championship which the Ottawa Gee-Gees hosted. So does that mean that Hockey Country, women playing the game is good, but women having control of their bodies is bad? How does that make any sense?

Obviously, that's not what they believe. That would be insane.

Point being, though, the Sens will skate on this thanks to a nifty bit of self-censoring. The team is on a losing streak, so the how, why and what's to be done about it is Priority One for the local sports media. Many would probably also decide that this isn't a "hockey story," and who really wants to get sidetracked into an abortion debate? Any editor or producer would probably nix a column or TV story about the subject.

However, not commenting on it is just as much of a political statement. The whole notion that sports is free from politics is a nice concept, but really, it's a huge load of bull.

It is a hockey story. It would be a story in Toronto if something similar came to light with the Leafs. In the NBA, it was a big story when Larry H. Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, refused to show Brokeback Mountain at a theatre he owned. It's part of the whole narrative (and to his credit, Miller later admitted he was wrong).

Bottom line, people donated to the Senators' charities because it's an adjunct of the hockey team that has touched lives and thrilled people for the past 15 years. Those fans deserve much better than being misled, or taken for granted.

(Much obliged to Erin Nicks for the link.)


rosco said...

great post! politics or not, this is crappy way to leverage your fan base.

Dennis Prouse said...

The Following was placed at the bottom of Heather Mallick's piece:

Editor's note:
Ms. Mallick clearly states that Revenue Canada told her First Place is not a registered charity. Links on the website's donation section show that it operates under a different name as a registered charity: Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Ottawa, registered as number 890251382RR0001.

Now, what was that about people not doing their homework?

GoGades said...

Neate, your hysterical anti-Senators posts are getting a bit much.... Geez....

PS. I'm not even a Sens fans...

sager said...

FYI, that clarification was added after this post was published. Appropriate corrections have been made. Good catch.

The point is the obvious: Whether the Sens routed money to an anti-abortion, anti-women group or an organization such as Planned Parenthood, it's bad form to use fans' charitable donations to support groups that wage in divisive politics. There's no getting by that, like Michael Vick and dogfighting.

That's not anti-Senators. That's pro-Senators. They should know that through their mostly admirable actions, a lot is expected from their organization. Regardless, we get incidents like this. It's unprofessional and bush-league, that's for sure, and so it letting it slide.

Pete Toms said...

Thanks N, this is an interesting story, I hadn't been aware of it. I'm curious to see how much play it gets.

Wow, did the Sens screw this up! No business enterprise, especially one with the enormous public profile of the Sens, wants to be associated with either side of this debate. It is toxic.

Obviously a number of people with the Sens - I don't know if heads will roll - were asleep at the switch. The notion that the Sens are either pro or anti on this is a stretch. Ultimately anything sanctioned by the Sens - or their foundation - is Melnyk and I would be shocked if he has anything to do with this.

As for the WAG's, I bet practically all of them have little to no idea what First Place is. I don't know who WAG # 1 is at the foundation but I suspect she is sympathetic to First Choice's viewpoints - the rest are too busy working out, going to the spa and giving the nanny shit.

It is funny though that the most promiscuous group of men ( boys ) in Ottawa is inadvertently helping anti birth control activists.

Fun, fun story. Nice to see the Sens and the WAGS embarrassed.

PS. Dennis nice find on Mallick's error.

sager said...

I ended up talking about this today with someone and she pointed out, as a rule of thumb, when you donate to a charity that donates to another charity, it's another level of overhead, and less money gets to those you are in need.

That's pretty much what happens when you dondate to these foundations that major-league teams have established. Even if their heart is pure, there are better recipients.

Here's one that was suggested to me, and after this debate here, rest assured I'm donating something: