Should Ian White apologize for calling Bettman an “idiot”?

Fans and players alike are visibly frustrated from a lack of progress in NHL labor negotiations to end the lockout that has wiped out two months of the season thus far with more games likely to be cancelled in the coming days.

While players have been vocal throughout the process both in the media and via personal social media accounts such as Twitter, expressing disappointment at a lack of process, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ian White took things a step further when he took a direct shot at Gary Bettman in a recent interview with The Detroit News.

“I personally think he’s an idiot,” said White Friday after a group of locked out Red Wings finished a workout. “Since he’s come in, he’s done nothing but damaged the game.”

White has certainly been vocal with his thoughts on the lockout, and he didn’t hesitate to expand upon his position.

“Three lockouts (under Bettman’s regime, including the entire 2004-05 season). I don’t know if he’s in control of the owners or what he’s saying. (Eight) of the owners have to agree to have something passed —you’d think it would be at least 50 percent. It just doesn’t seem like they’re running a democratic process, if you will.”

White’s comments immediately received a lot of attention in the media, including TSN Analyst Darren Dreger writing on Twitter that, “Candor and strong opinion are always welcome, however, Ian White calling Gary Bettman an ‘idiot’ is disrespectful and requires an apology.”

Dreger later expanded on his tweet, stating that the players have “historically been respectful” and that White’s comments crossed the line into disrespect.

Does Dreger have a point? Should White apologize for his comments?

Bear in mind that Bettman is the man who just recently suggested to the NHLPA that both sides take a two-week break from negotiations after promising talks last week quickly hit a wall. The NHL has been adamant that they don’t want to meet to talk if there is nothing to talk about. Meanwhile, the NHLPA has suggested that it is better to meet and try to push progress than not meet at all.

Granted, if the break began today it would extend to Dec. 1. Talks will likely be sparse this coming week anyway with Thanksgiving happening in the U.S. But that still pushed negotiations back an additional two weeks and brings the league two weeks closer to cancelling the entire season. Is it better to meet and have nothing to talk about and make no progress or take a beak so each side can regroup and clear their heads?

White’s comments don’t just take into account Bettman’s recent suggestion – they transcend this lockout and take into account all of the problems the league has incurred throughout Bettman’s tenure. Three lockouts, including one season cancelled in its entirety, is hard to ignore.

Like other players, White expressed frustration with the NHL’s unwillingness to come off their demands and meet the players in the middle.

“The whole process has been frustrating,” White said. “Just where we stand right now, you’d think that we’re pretty close to making a deal if they would be willing to come a little bit our way.”

Calling Bettman an idiot certainly isn’t going to help the situation and will definitely not get the owners to move any closer to what the players are offering. Sure, it’s frustrating for players and fans alike that this has dragged on for nine weeks, cancelled two months of the season and the biggest event the NHL has to offer in the Winter Classic. However, as Dreger pointed out, the players have been respectful to this point, merely expressing disappointment and frustration at the situation.

White took it upon himself to tell the media how he really feels, but Dreger has a point – there is a thin line between being emotional and being disrespectful. There aren’t many out there who will argue against what White said. Unfortunately, no matter how many fans applaud his honesty, White’s comments crossed that line into disrespect.

NHL players are typically a classy breed. An apology won’t end the lockout, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. White’s emotions got the best of him – something we can all understand. And nobody would fault him for apologizing for his remarks, either.

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