Andrew Shaw hasn't exactly earned the benefit of the doubt, so when it appeared that he may have used a homophobic slur during a game last week, it was fair (and appropriate) for the NHL to launch an investigation into the incident.
The league, however, has concluded that the Montreal Canadiens forward did not use any derogatory slurs during this particular incident.
During last Friday's Canadiens-Ducks game in Anaheim, the Montreal winger was sent to the penalty box after an on-ice skirmish with Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. While in the box, cameras captured Shaw yelling something towards someone on the ice. Many attempted to read his lips and -- presumably largely because of Shaw's history -- interpreted his comments as being anti-homosexual.
Here's video of the incident in question:
The league's investigation was sparked based on what that video showed, but NHL officials reportedly came to their conclusion based off of more than just what was shown from the penalty box camera. On Sunday, the NHL released an official statement regarding the matter.
"The League thoroughly investigated this matter including interviewing Andrew Shaw, on-ice officials and relevant off-ice officials. We are completely satisfied that Andrew Shaw did not say the homophobic slur that has been alleged."
(For what it's worth, the most common interpretation of Shaw's lip service [other than the homophobic slur] is that the winger was saying "not [expletive] fair" or "call it [expletive] fair," both of which would make sense in the context of the game. Shaw was clearly unhappy with how officials policed his incident with Bieksa.)
Shaw was previously caught directing a homophobic slur towards an official during the 2015-16 playoffs while playing for the Blackhawks. He was suspended for one game and later apologized, saying there was "no excuse" for his homophobic comments.
Following that incident, Shaw partnered with the "You Can Play" program, which is "dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity."
With that in mind, the response to the incident was more than fair. It's fair for fans to call out any behavior that is perceived to be homophobic, especially when it's coming from someone who has committed to being an ambassador for LGBTQ rights in sports. It's fair to not give Shaw the benefit of the doubt, but it should also be fair to allow due process before definitively condemning him.
It's also good to know the league is taking the issue seriously, as it should be.