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When is it okay to start rooting for the Blackhawks again?

I’m asking as someone who’s been disappointed, angry, and at times outraged about how Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks have handled the allegations against the star winger.

The pre-camp press conference was tone deaf and a disaster. Jonathan Toews didn’t “no comment” on an interview. Ex-Hawk Daniel Carcillo bombed his public opinions. And, of course, Kane was allowed to participate in training camp and start the season with the Blackhawks. All of those things have been heavily scrutinized by local and national reporters and personalities and, of course, in the Twitter-sphere.

At Cheer The Anthem we have a pretty longstanding and in-depth group text that talks everything from politics to music to sports. Mostly, though, we talk Blackhawks hockey. Throughout the Kane investigation and the subsequent mishandling from Hawks management we’ve struggled to really get a grip on how we want to deal with this team as fans. We debated the writings of columnists like Julie DiCaro and Tim Baffoe — two well-respected folks on Twitter — and how they chose to educate us on how we talk about rape culture in sports. We talked about how entertaining a trade for Kane would be a great way to get value for Kane and allow Kane to be someone else’s distraction. We talked about how our friends and colleagues would react and we were confident that we didn’t know any of the subhumans that choose to threaten reporters for reporting.

We mostly sat on the sidelines and left the takes up to others. Punching down and documenting idiots and calling them idiots, in my opinion, doesn’t help further the discussion of misogyny and rape culture in sports. The “Patrick Kane is Not Your Friend” column, to me, was fairly insulting from Baffoe. The folks who read and shared that story, for the most part, aren’t going to be changed by that column because they’re probably all on the right side already. It turned into a whole bunch of people shouting the same things at one another – don’t support sexual assault in sports and athletes aren’t heroes. But, we kept being told that if we weren’t shouting about it, we were somehow part of the problem.

That’s neither here nor there, I suppose. Because, like I said, we’re on the same page here. Patrick Kane’s track record is not a good one. He’s punched another human in public and there’s rumors of his antics with women in Wisconsin that are appalling. Patrick Kane is an unlikeable character who’s being investigated for rape. Despite that, he’s not been charged yet. And even though he hasn’t been charged yet, many of our friends and people that we respect are stepping away from the game (though some have written that and then have continued to support the team by attending games).

It saddens me, because hockey is supposed to be this communal thing. Something we can all get behind and gather to watch so that we can cheer and cry and yell and high five. And this year, I don’t get to interact with one of my favorite CtA personalities — Mike D. He was an asset to the site, a wonderful personality, and someone I consider a friend from across the pond.

That sucks.

What the Blackhawks’ PR disasters and the decision to let Patrick Kane to play this season has done to this community is upsetting. Hell, I understand the decision to step away and re-evaluate one’s fandom. It’s noble. It’s not one that I am choosing and that should be okay too.

But this leads me to the question that I asked to kick this whole thing off. When is it okay to root for the Blackhawks again? I ask because there are plenty of people who have disowned (for lack of a better word) the Blackhawks over the last two months that are still readily cheering for the extremely fun and talented and exciting Chicago Cubs.

The front office that brought us Jake Arrieta and Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber is the same one that allowed Starlin Castro to show up to spring training and play 14 games before charges were officially not going to be filed against him for rape. After a garbage season, his resurgence in September has been lauded by everyone, including a column by Baffoe. DiCaro wrote a piece 9 months after the allegations against Castro in which she hoped he was still a big part of the Cubs’ future.

I’m just curious about the consistency of the messages here. Many who have stepped away don’t seem to have much issue with Starlin Castro mashing taters and playing good baseball or the fact that the Cubs made no effort to keep him from Spring Training. Yes, it was two and a half years ago and some things change, but I don’t think you should retroactively get a pass — especially if we’re content (and I am) to absolutely hate that the Blackhawks use Bobby Hull as an ambassador.

Is the rule of thumb nine months for us to step away? If so, the bandwagon should fill right back up around playoff time. If not, then maybe we should think about how the consistency in our messages and outrage affects the overall conversation of rape culture in sports. It’s easy to feel this way about the Blackhawks — we’ve gotten to see Stanley Cup wins. We got ours, and walking away isn’t that tough when you’ve reached the peak of the mountain a few times. Walking away from a team on the upswing — that can win multiple titles after 100+ years of futility — is a tough one.

Outside of a tone-deaf press conference and some ice girls, what’s the real difference here?