Burke says it’s ‘unacceptable’ to bring aggression from ice into personal life

CALGARY – Players who take aggression from the ice into their personal lives don’t deserve to earn pro-athlete wages, said Calgary Flames president Brian Burke.

Burke was asked at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., how he would have handled the NFL’s Ray Rice scandal.

“The notion that ‘I get paid to fight on a hockey rink so that same level of violence is acceptable on the street or in my home,’ I think that’s just pure bulls–t,” Burke said as the crowd of CEOs and other prominent figures applauded. “And if a player can’t separate them, then the player doesn’t deserve to earn professional athlete wages.”

A recent video showing Rice, a star NFL running back, assaulting the woman who is now his wife has ignited a debate over how pro sports leagues ought to deal with an athlete’s bad behaviour outside of the game.

Whenever there’s an incident in another sport, Burke said he weighs how he would handle it with his team.

“What would we do if one of our players did this? How would we react? Every time we have an issue in another sport, we dry run it internally. We’ve done it a lot the past week.”

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Burke said it’s a balancing act as any form of domestic violence is unacceptable, but citizens are entitled to due process if they’re accused of a crime.

However, he says if he had evidence a player had assaulted someone off the ice, he’d have to act.

“So in the Rice case, when there’s a video, we don’t have to guess what happened there,” he said. “That case, we’d say ‘We’re done with this player. He’s done with us.’ We’re going to do the right thing first.”

And if a financial penalty or lawsuit results, so be it, he said.

Professional athletes are in the public eye, so it’s expected they be held to a high standard, said Burke.

“These jobs pay well,” he said. “There’s lots of people who will do them if you don’t want to do them on those terms.”

Mario Lefebvre, co-author of “Power Play: The Business and Economics of Pro Sports” said fans care how such issues are handled.

“And if they feel like the right decision’s been taken, then they’re going to go on and continue to support,” he told the forum. “I think you’re better to be proactive about it.”

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