Nick Cousins meets the Flyers on Draft Day 2011 in St. Paul, Minnesota. - Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Ian Laperriere says he was misunderstood regarding comments about sexual assault charges against Flyers prospect Nick Cousins. Do you believe him?
Here's Flyers director of player development Ian Laperriere talking in today's Philadelphia Daily News story about Flyers prospect Nick Cousins. As you probably know, Cousins was accused of sexual assault last year and still has charges pending in an Ontario court.
Emphasis is ours below.
"At the pro level, teams expect you to be an adult and act like one," Laperriere said. "He's got a good heart . . . Let's be honest, stuff like that has been happening forever. You can't get away with anything now. He can't put himself in those situations.
"He's been in trouble with this stuff, but hopefully that's all going to go away. Part of my job is telling him that he needs to learn from that. You need to be careful what you're doing. All of our prospects need to learn from his situation."
"Stuff like that." ... stuff like .... sexual assault charges pending in an Ontario court? Stuff like what the Daily News essentially described as rape?
We talked to Laperriere in an attempt to get some clarification. He didn't argue that he was misquoted, but did say he was misunderstood.
"I would never say that rape happens all the time and that you can get away with it," Laperriere said. "Maybe my English got in the way. What I meant was kids putting themselves in a wrong position, a vulnerable position. Now with the money they make and the phones and the Internet, you can't put yourself in that position."
"I'm rattled now."
He spoke mostly in generalities about "vulnerable" and "not smart" situations and mentioned the rise of social media, going out to parties and "acting like an adult" when asked what he meant by vulnerable positions.
After talking with Laperriere, I'm truly not sure what he intended. I'm not going to call him a villain, especially because it goes against everything I know about the guy. But I'm also not going to proclaim that he wasn't in the wrong here either, because I'm not sold on that either. You can judge for yourself.
We also talked to Frank Seravalli, the writer of the original Daily News story. There's been quite a bit of backlash at him as well for the way he framed things, with many saying that he danced around using the word rape despite a rather straightforward explanation of the charges against Cousins. Seravalli wanted to defend himself on the record.
"The bigger backlash, even than Lappy's quote, was saying that I tiptoed around the word rape," Seravalli said. "That's simply not the case. I can't make any sort of judgment one way or another. The court documents call it sexual assault and I'm not allowed to make a judgment call."
But why did it five paragraphs for the first mention of Cousins' "soiled off-ice reputation" and 14 paragraphs for the complete detail of the charges still pending against him?
"It's not exactly news that it happened," Seravalli said. "It doesn't need to be in the lede. When it happened we ran it in our paper, as did every paper in the area. We dug into the situation with Harry Zolnierczyk too, but we don't mention it in every article we write about him."
(Zolnierczyk, recently called up from the Flyers' AHL affiliate and signed by the team in 2011, was found guilty of producing and distributing a pornographic video involving an underage girl while he was a junior player in Canada.)
"I'm in no way defending Cousins or his actions," Seravalli continued. "If he is guilty, anything he's done in hockey won't matter. For one, he won't be allowed in the U.S. And I'd have a hard time believing any team would be interested in a player with that history and past."
Innocent until proven guilty is an important principle in our society, so we definitely shouldn't assume that Cousins is guilty. In that regard, I don't have a problem with the second part of Lappy's quote -- the "hopefully that's all going to go away" part. We do hope it goes away, because we hope the accusations are false and that this never happened. (Clarification: That's also not to say that we're victim blaming or brushing the accusations under the rug, or that we shouldn't take the accusations seriously.)
In any case, let's make clear here that sexual assault or rape is not something "learn from." It's something to be punished for. (Clarification: I don't mean to say that our society in general doesn't have a lot of learning to do when it comes to rape culture. We do.) If Nick Cousins is found guilty of the charges against him, let's hope he does his learning in jail -- regardless of the fact that he's the OHL's leading scorer so far this season, that he "has a good heart," that he put himself in a "vulnerable position," and that he's the Flyers top prospect.