January 26, 2011
Minor leaguer sues NHL's Ducks
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
Ottawa Senators farmhand Jason Bailey is suing the Anaheim Ducks and a minor-league team for alleged anti-Semitic remarks by the club's minor-league coaches and wrongful dismissal, a lawsuit that could force a serious examination of tolerance in hockey.
That's the opinion of Eric Macramalla, an Ottawa-based lawyer who writes a blog on the law and sports, offsidesportsblog.blogspot.com.
"This is going to get interesting. It's a gutsy lawsuit," Macramalla told QMI Agency. "It's the kind of case that can result in the examination of hockey culture. Any lawsuit is serious, but this has got a complicated matrix at play."
Bailey is suing the Ducks, the East Coast Hockey League's Bakersfield Condors (the minor-league team for which Bailey played) and the Condors coaches at the time of the alleged incidents, Martin Raymond and assistant Mark Pederson.
Bailey filed the suit Tuesday in Orange County, Calif., Superior Court. He is suing for unspecified damages, which, Macramalla wrote in his blog, is normal in these types of cases.
Bailey, now playing for the Ottawa Senators' AHL farm team in Binghamton, accused Raymond and Pederson in court documents of a "barrage of anti-Semitic, offensive and degrading verbal attacks" toward him.
In the suit, which has attracted the attention of CNN and Hollywood gossip website TMZ, it is alleged that Raymond stated that Jewish people "only care about money and who's who," and that he "never wanted his son to be raised Jewish or to wear a yarmulke."
It is alleged that Pederson stated Bailey could not be trusted because "he's Jewish."
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Macramalla said the combination of allegations -- religious discrimination, harrassment and retaliation, along with alleging wrongful dismissal -- create a serious public relations issue for the NHL.
"He's saying these comments created emotional distress and also that he was wrongfully terminated. 'They didn't like me, so I didn't get a chance to show what I could do, so I was wrongfully terminated.' It does get interesting," said Macramalla. "Everything alleged is quite serious and there is compelling evidence a wrong has been committed.
"It's not the greatest case for the NHL from a public relations standpoint and I think there is going to be pressure to get this settled and make it go away quietly."
Both coaches were suspended in February, 2009 -- Raymond reportedly for a week and Pederson for two -- though it was never stated publicly why they were suspended. The lawsuit, according to CNN.com, contends the coaches were told to write letters of apology.
Bailey did not return a message left by QMI Agency, but told Ottawa radio station Team 1200 that "unfortunately at this time I can't comment (on the lawsuit)."
When asked if he was worried about the implications of suing an NHL team and how it could impact his career, he said: "I haven't thought that far (ahead). I'm worrying about my hockey here in Binghamton and making a (playoff) push in Binghamton."
He said he's "got a pretty strong head and I'm doing OK."
Bailey, a 23-year-old Ottawa native, was the Ducks' third-round pick (63rd overall) in the 2005 draft. He was traded in September, 2009, to the Senators for Shawn Weller.
The Ducks and the Senators have refused comment on the suit.