The Habs & Logan Mailloux: If you’re minimizing his actions, you’re part of the problem

“The message that women and victims of sexual abuse received when the team drafted him was ‘You don’t matter.’ Every apologist defending the decision is communicating the same.”

I grew up playing basketball so I’m admittedly a fair-weather hockey fan. But this year, my hometown team made me a true believer. The Montreal Canadiens’ thrilling playoff run had me and the entire city looking forward to their next season with genuine excitement. All that came to a screeching halt last week with the news that Logan Mailloux was selected by the Habs in the NHL draft. I can only imagine the betrayal long-time fans must have felt. 

I joined the many voices on social media expressing my disappointment at the decision by Montreal Canadiens management to choose a man who knowingly and non-consensually took and then distributed an image of a consensual sex act. I called the move “inexplicably dumb” and pointed out how ludicrous it is that some continue to complain of “cancel culture” when we live in a world in which a sex offender gets drafted in the first round. 

For those opinions, I was called “woke,” “dumb” and a disturbing number of men (yes, overwhelmingly men) bent over backwards to downplay and trivialize the severity of Mailloux’s actions, insisting that referring to him as a sex offender was “too harsh.” 

Do not trivialize a criminal offence

Logan Mailloux in a press conference after being selected by the Montreal Canadiens

First off, let me make one thing clear here, so there is absolutely no confusion about what we’re debating. What Mailloux did is criminal. That’s a fact, not an opinion. Sharing non-consensual intimate images is an indictable Criminal Code offence in Canada, liable to imprisonment. 

In Sweden, where the incident occurred, Mailloux was charged with invasion of privacy and defamation and fined a couple of thousands of dollars. A slap on the wrist. While he issued a statement expressing remorse and claims he apologized to his victim, the young woman said in an interview with The Athletic’s Katie Strang that all she received was “a three-sentence text that smacked of insincerity.” 

I usually send a text when I’m running late to meet a friend. I believe something this vile merited something more. Don’t you?

Before some of you remind me of the “boy’s” young age and make your not-so-compelling arguments about “second chances,” let me remind you of the incident. Not only did Mailloux secretly photograph the victim during a sex act without her consent or knowledge, but he also later shared the image with his teammates in a group chat. He also purposely and deliberately shared a screenshot of the young girl’s social online profile. That’s an extra step that requires forethought and added effort. In sharing her photo and name, he went out of his way to ensure that her privacy would be invaded, and everyone would know exactly who she was, essentially exposing someone who trusted him to public ridicule, slut-shaming and all kinds of possible repercussions for her own academic, professional and personal life. Yet none of the people now jumping to Mailloux’s defence seemed to share a moment of introspection regarding the consequences of his decision on her life. She was an afterthought barely deserving of respect or sympathy. An anonymous one-night stand that got in this “kid’s” way and all his shiny potential. 

Mailloux callously did all this to show off to his boys, and brag about his conquest, the usual tell-tale indicators of rape culture, misogyny and toxic masculinity. Those aren’t just “woke” buzzwords; they are attached to definitions corresponding to very specific harmful behaviour. This young girl’s privacy, reputation, self-esteem and emotions were easily sacrificed on his quest to show off. Her image and the sex act depicted in the picture were elements he felt entitled to do with as he pleased. And this is what so many of you right now are trying to minimize as a youthful indiscretion, a minor mistake, a silly stumble. While I readily acknowledge that we may not be fully grown at 17, we are also way past knowing right and wrong. He knew that what he did wasn’t right. He did it anyway. 

Excusing away rape culture

Montreal Canadiens Marc Bergevin Logan Mailloux Habs
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin defending the decision to select Logan Mailloux for the Habs 2021–22 season

And yet the downplaying commenced the minute he was chosen. In drafting Mailloux, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin only referred to what happened in Sweden as “a serious mistake.” Nowhere did he mention that it’s, in fact, criminal. During the press conference he repeatedly referred to Mailloux’s young age as if that fact alone should absolve him. He also said, time and time again, that what he did was “unacceptable.” But that’s simply not true, because actions always speak louder than words and by drafting him, Bergevin communicated the exact opposite: it is acceptable, it is excusable, it is something we can collectively turn a blind eye to. 

An ESPN article referred to his act vaguely as “teen’s 2020 trouble in Sweden” as if he had been caught underage drinking or shoplifting, and not illegally sharing images of a girl who did not consent. 

Here in Quebec, when the draft was announced, I saw a disturbingly high number of professional sports journalists and well-known public figures sharing their support for Mailloux and denouncing the outrage as exaggerated and uncalled for. They are part of the problem. Because it’s people quick to dismiss and downplay such despicable behaviour that allows for it to continue. Rape culture is perpetuated by an inordinate number of “good guys” ready and willing to minimize the transgressions of the bad. 

“He’s only 17… he had too much to drink… he didn’t mean anything by it… his entire life shouldn’t be destroyed by one mistake… the girl is being vindictive…” Women get called hysterical for wanting accountability, but how many times have we heard the same excuses uttered in the defence of some abuser, whose supporters fear will be destroyed by angry feminists, while he’s busy signing contracts and moving on with his career? 

Double standards persist

Montreal Canadiens Logan Mailloux
Norwegian beach handball team fined by European Handball Association for not wearing bikinis (The Habs & Logan Mailloux: If you’re minimizing his actions, you’re part of the problem)

And the double standards remain painfully obvious on and off the ice. In Nova Scotia, a Liberal candidate was forced to drop out of her race because intimate “boudoir” pictures she had willingly taken were deemed too risqué. A decision that she had willingly made for herself involving her own body, harming no one, and willingly disclosed during the vetting process disqualified this woman from a political career, yet a man’s criminal distribution of a woman’s non-consensual image did not disqualify him from his. Hell… it didn’t even slow him down. Funny how that works. 

These past few months alone, we’ve seen female athletes get fined or reprimanded for showing too much skin, too little skin, or simply choosing to abstain from speaking at a press conference because of stress. U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the Olympics because she smoked weed after her mother died, yet U.S. Olympic fencer Alen Hadzic, who is under investigation for sexual assault, is in Tokyo right now getting ready to compete like nothing’s standing in his way. 

In professional sports the list of male athletes who have committed despicable acts of violence and yet continued playing is very long. We continue to trivialize and downplay the violence and misogyny of some of these players just as long as they perform and make the team owners money. 

Tone-deaf decision sends terrible message

Habs Logan Mailloux Montreal Canadiens
“Lady psychiatrist”—Montreal Canadians assistant coach Trevor Timmins (The Habs & Logan Mailloux: If you’re minimizing his actions, you’re part of the problem)

At the end of the day, my problem isn’t with Logan Mailloux. My anger is directed at Habs management and their tone-deaf and insensitive decision that sends a terrible message to hockey fans. Mailloux renounced himself from the draft and asked that no one select him. Habs management chose to ignore that request. Since then, and faced with an increasing backlash, we’ve been treated to nothing but awkward and disingenuous PR attempts to justify their decision and appease the critics. 

First, they made Mailloux tell us that the Canadiens will “accompany” him along his journey and “help him be a better person” which absolutely no one should buy. A hockey team isn’t a support group for problematic behaviour and the pressure-cooker atmosphere of pro sports is certainly not where a young man will be allowed to figure things out. If anything, they are setting him up for failure. Then assistant manager Trevor Timmins let us know that Mailloux meets with a “lady psychiatrist” a couple of times a week, which, I fully admit laughing out loud to. Are there no women working at the Canadiens organization? Because these responses don’t fill me with much hope that anyone in management understands (or cares) about the gravity of the situation. 

“You don’t matter”

The Habs & Logan Mailloux: If you’re minimizing his actions, you’re part of the problem

Drafting Logan Mailloux is a slap in the face for Habs fans, for the league’s many female hockey fans, for Canadiens players who don’t want to be associated with this kind of behaviour and all the distractions and negative press it will bring, and, finally, for all those whose consent has ever been violated. The message women and victims of sexual abuse received when the team decided to draft him was “You don’t matter.” Every apologist quick to defend the decision is communicating the same. 

Those saying Mailloux deserves a second chance should learn the distinction between advocating for a permanent ban and advocating for some accountability. No one has ever suggested the former, but we would certainly like to see a little of the latter before he’s off making millions without even hitting the tiniest of speed-bumps in his career.

The Montreal Canadiens press release might publicly claim that what Mailloux did is unacceptable but selecting him as a first-draft pick unequivocally communicates that consent is nothing more than a pesky detail that no one really cares about. 

That unspoken message is the one currently being heard loud and clear by the next perpetrator. ■

Read more editorials by Toula Drimonis here.