It really is amazing in this day and age how quickly celebrities are vilified. Reports surfaced Sunday that young Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his cousin had been arrested and charged with felony robbery and misdemeanor counts of theft and criminal mischief for allegedly beating and robbing a cab driver after an altercation over 20 cents.
Fans on THN.com were largely outraged, calling Kane immature, a hockey punk and a jerk, and accused the 20-year-old Hawk of being drunk (as if that would be an anomaly for a 20-year-old).
Media outlets widely quoted the cabbie, Jan Radecki, in effect validating his accusations and fueling the anti-Kane fire. A Buffalo TV news crew interviewed Radecki, telling only his side of the story, noting the Kane cousins both pled not guilty to the charges against them, but failing to do their due diligence on Radecki.
That was Sunday.
By Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times was asking if Kane was “a player an emerging organization wants to build its long-term future around,” deriding the Calder Trophy winner’s game and suggesting the Hawks would be better off cutting ties with the franchise cornerstone.
And Internet outlets were offering Kane’s mug shot up to the public and broadcasting his new nickname, ‘20 Cent.’ (Full disclosure: ‘20 Cent’ is pretty good.)
But then things started to turn in Kane’s favor. Radecki’s lawyer went on record saying the charges against Kane had been overblown and that “we should be able to work things out,” whatever that means. Many are now assuming the sound ka-ching is ringing in Mr. Radecki’s ears now that he knows who he’s dealing with.
And by Tuesday, things had come full circle. Kane’s lawyer let it be known he knows what happened after talking with witnesses and that “Patrick Kane never assaulted the cab driver.” Meanwhile, reports essentially besmirching the cabbie’s reputation were released, giving Kane’s version of the events – or rather his lawyer’s – more credence.
In just 36 hours, Kane went from being the latest poster boy for pampered, immature, self-centered pro athletes to a guy who may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. And Radecki went from innocent victim to possibly a guy looking for a payday.
Kane might be guilty of the charges laid against him. Or he may not. He might be a spoiled prima donna who thinks he can get away with whatever he wants because of who he is and what he does. Or he may not. Kane may also be the victim of someone looking to take advantage of him – or he may not.
What this case should teach everyone is that in this age of 24-hour news services, sketchy journalism and the never-ending race to break stories, things can be and are routinely overblown for the sake of ratings and Internet traffic. Everyone should also be aware that stories can reverse direction in a matter of hours, so don’t get too excited by any one report.
Kane deserves a break, as does Radecki. Kane deserves his day in court, and not the court of public opinion. Radecki deserves a modicum of privacy concerning his past – although he did open himself to criticism by doing that TV interview and his lawyer’s assertion that something can be ‘worked out’ doesn’t help.
But please, people, remember that Kane and Radecki are people, too. Just like you and me. And I’m sure we’d all hope everyone wouldn’t jump to conclusions at the first reports of something being amiss in our lives. I know I would.
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