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Sportscaster booted after gay-marriage tweet, Avery flap

'Not the right fit for our organization,' says Rogers Sportsnet

Damian Goddard was booted from Rogers Sportsnet after a controversial tweet. Rogers management says the change had been brewing for weeks.

Rogers Sportsnet anchor Damian Goddard was fired on May 11 after tweeting in support of the anti-gay marriage stance taken by hockey agent Todd Reynolds.

“I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage,” Goddard tweeted on May 10.

Although the tweet came from Goddard’s personal account, his profile identified him as a Sportsnet broadcaster and his thumbnail picture showed him at the Sportsnet news desk.

“Mr Goddard was a freelance contractor, and in recent weeks it had become clear that he is not the right fit for our organization,” Sportsnet communications director Dave Rashford wrote in an email to Xtra. “As this is a confidential personnel matter, we will not be commenting further except to say that views expressed by Mr Goddard on Twitter are his own and do not reflect the views of Rogers or Rogers Sportsnet.”

Goddard did not respond to Xtra’s requests for an interview before post time, so the complete course of events leading to his dismissal from Sportsnet remain unclear.

It all started after a public service announcement video was released by New Yorkers for Marriage Equality, featuring Pickering native and New York Rangers forward Sean Avery.

Avery is famous for his interest in fashion, an internship at Vogue, and a 2008 statement to reporters in which he said, “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about, but enjoy the game tonight.”

It was a thinly veiled shot at Calgary Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who was reportedly, at the time, dating Avery’s ex-girlfriend. Avery was suspended for six games.

“I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated, and that applies to marriage,” Avery says in the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality video.

“Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage.’ Legal or not, it will always be wrong,” tweeted Reynolds on May 9.

A spokesperson for Avery told Xtra that he’s not commenting further for now, and that he prefers to “let the video take its spin.”

Reynolds says there’s a double standard at work in this issue.

“Whether you agree with me or Damian Goddard – or not – I’ve had many people on both sides of the issue who have been shocked,” Reynolds told Xtra on May 13. “You should not be fired for coming out and supporting Sean Avery. But Damian Goddard was fired for supporting me.”

Still Reynolds equivocates when asked if there’s room for openly gay people in professional sports.

“I know people who are gay,” he says. “I interact with people who are gay. I tolerate it. I’m a Christian. God loves us. I’m far from perfect. I’m not here to point fingers. But there is a truth. There is a right and wrong and we need to stand for that. The reason why I responded to Avery’s video is it’s a hot-button topic and a divisive issue and it entered the hockey arena… Marriage is for one man and one woman. Some of the responses have been hateful. It’s a sad commentary on our culture. I voiced my support for traditional marriage and that’s not going to change.”

“Sean’s voice is important because sports is an area where gay equality hasn’t gone well,” says Brian Eleanor, a spokesperson for New Yorkers for Marriage Equality. “There’s a lot of homophobia in sports. We don’t have many openly gay athletes. We have out lesbians and gays in every other area in life but not in professional sports. Having a current athlete take a stance like this is meaningful.”