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The Rejean Tremblay Problem: Racism Disguised as Sports Journalism and Patriotism

The weaponization of vocabulary is hardly a new concept. People have used words to condemn others for a long time.  Whether these be words meant to define and demean a group of people based upon their race, gender or any other reason, these, unfortunately are not concepts that we are unfamiliar with.

A more recent trend of the weaponization of previously harmless words or phrases have also become part of our lexicon.  Previously someone being “cancelled” would refer to a TV show with waning popularity. Snowflakes were once ice crystals destined for snow-dom in Earth’s atmosphere. The first time I heard the term Social Justice Warrior I imagined the Ultimate Warrior telling people to go out and vote.  Most recently, Karen has become the specific image for a middle class woman acting in an obnoxious, entitled and rage-filled manner in a situation that typically does not call for it.  Heck, the last one even has a meme (cue the crying woman pointing at a cat who is seemingly ready to enjoy  a five star dining experience).

In recent times, we’ve seen media members as well as celebrities struggle to straddle the line in the new world of weaponized concepts.  People have made the half-assed defense, that they feel they can’t say anything anymore, or that the world has gotten too soft and so on.  The result has been mass division and in many cases and the compounding effect of fake social media outrage (outrage that has a quick onset, sees a loud minority pile on and often the outcry disappears as soon as it appears because the outrage was never real in the first place).  This seems harmless enough.  The problem lies when there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Serious, systemic issues have often got swept under the rug because it gets tied into the white wall of noise that is social media.  The issue becomes ever clearer when we see journalists, broadcasters and pundits who fail to adapt to the world.  They cling to the past and see change as a threat.  They make up false causes like the War on Christmas! Seriously, even Arnold Schwartzanegger’s Christmas movie is a heartwarming tale of family and consumerism. They want to keep living in a world where their arrogance and bluster is the foundation of a career that should be based on talent and merit.

Those who have failed to adapt are all quick to claim themselves to be the victims of “cancel culture” (another weaponized fabrication). I can see the danger of censoring those who have important contributions and thoughts. I have also gone on record as saying I never want to take money out of another man’s pocket.  I don’t personally call for people to be fired (unless it’s Adam Gase) and I don’t think someone’s worst moment should be the definition of a career.  HOWEVER (capitalized to connote importance), freedom of speech has never meant freedom from accountability. Too often the media members and pundits in question call for accountability from athletes yet, when they slip up they hold the line and blame the world for getting too soft.  The fact is, there aren’t a lot of media and broadcast jobs in any specific market. Those jobs are coveted and come with a platform for which there needs to be accountability.  In sports we often see the more talented get opportunity upon opportunity.  Yet the sports media personalities who are, by great measure, far less talented at what they do then the athletes do often expect 

Enter Rejean Termblay. The non-quebecois in our audience will likely not be familiar with him but he is a french language sports writer for the Journal de Montreal.  This weekend, Rejean Tremblay wrote a piece that loosely translated states the following:

  • The Canadiens are playing well and for the first time in 5-6 years they aren’t an embarrassment.
  • Since the Canadiens are winning, the Canadiens could dress 20 chinese players and this would be fine.
  • If the KHL succeeds at getting more Chinese people into hockey than we may see the Canadiens with 20 players named Fang Wong in 20 years (yup, he actually said that).

So let’s break down this bizarre racially laden and completely inappropriate tirade by a C grade journalist holding on to a dusty resume with far more keystrokes in it’s past then it’s future.  Firstly, the Canadiens have played well and yes they have not been an embarrassment. Let’s forget for a moment that they won a playoff series last season (in the shortened season).  We’ll give him that, certainly, I wouldn’t say the team embarrassed me but I guess I’m a fan with thicker skin than old man Rejean.  

The next part of the sentiment goes off the rails rather quickly.  Despite a fairly tame hypothesis, Tremblay goes on to describe how well the Canadiens are playing. So well apparently, that you could dress 20 chinese players and this would be fine.  So the inference is that offering employment to people who are (presumably) qualified would not be alright if the team was losing specifically because of their race.  So if the team were to dress 20 Quebecois players and the team was not excelling, the implication here is that this would be better than if the team was not excelling and the players were Chinese.

Finally, Tremblay warns (I guess warns is the right word here), that if the KHL can successfully market hockey to China, we’ll see 20 Fang Wong (I can’t believe I had to type that twice in one article) playing for the Habs in 20 years.  So the dismount on this literary turd was a warning of a Chinese invasion of the NHL.  

So, Rejean, I’m sorry but you don’t speak for Quebec. This, flatly is racism. I don’t know or care if Tremblay himself is a racist but at some point it doesn’t matter anymore. Sure, sports journalists are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to reporting but this entry is scraping even the utmost bottom of said metaphorical barrel.  The face of Quebec is changing.  Quebecois are multilingual, many are from initially immigrant families and none of them have time for this trash. I know that many of the old-guard still like and support him but, put simply, he offers nothing in the way of actual analysis and he very clearly has a derogatory agenda masked in nationalism and patriotism. 

I’m a proud Quebecois, I am a proud Habs fan and no, the team hasn’t been an embarrassment. Sentiments such as Tremblay’s trite dribble are the embarrassment.  Just imagine the arrogance that must accompany that type of work. Despite, adding nothing to your publication’s coverage of the sport, you think you’re so valuable that you can be publicly discriminatory and use patriotism for my beautiful province to do so. This dude must be a hit at parties, brings nothing, eats all the dip and then blames others around him for being from a different country. Yet, this is not the only time Rejean Tremblay has been front and centre and on the wrong side of controversy.

Tremblay has long been a supporter of the “Savard doctrine”.  This oft whispered principal associated with ex-Montreal Canadiens general manager Serge Savard who believed that if two players were of equal talent where one was a francophone and the other was not, the preference should always be given to the francophone. Firstly, such a supposition does not exist in reality. This isn’t a video game where you can compare the player’s overall ratings.  The evaluation of talent is and will always be subjective.  Therefore, as is the case with all systemic issues, you’re giving privilege to those who most closely resemble you. 

Quebec, Montreal and beyond have changed.   As of the time that this was written, the Journal de Montreal has yet to issue an apology and neither has Rejean Tremblay.  This is completely unacceptable. Sure, I think Tremblay may have more to offer and shouldn’t be uniquely judged on his worst day.  However, the bad days are piling up and the same industry that calls for accountability from athletes needs to hold those calling for it to the same standard. Quebec holds a long and cherished history and culture. It’s time that those who use it to mask hate are exposed for all to see. 

1 comment

  1. He needs to retire and give his spot as “journalist ” to a more qualified person. Racism doesn’t have place on 2021 and more in hockey.

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