Was Canucks singer a victim of cancel culture? Not really, says HR expert
VANCOUVER -- Was former Vancouver Canucks anthem singer Mark Donnelly the victim of so-called cancel culture?
Some of Donnelly's supporters have characterized him that way, suggesting the Canucks organization bowed to social media pressure to cut ties over the singer's anti-mask views.
The only problem, according to human resources expert Debby Carreau, is there doesn't appear to have been much pressure to speak of.
Carreau, the founder and CEO of Inspired HR, said there were relatively few calls to "cancel" Donnelly compared to what some Vancouver companies and individuals have faced in the past.
"It wasn't widespread," Carreau said. "There wasn't really a formal movement."
In fact, there was scarcely enough time for people to organize a campaign or even launch a petition against the singer before he was brushed aside.
The Vancouver Sun broke the news that Donnelly was planning to sing at an anti-mask rally last Friday afternoon. Within a few hours, team owner Francesco Aquilini had declared Donnelly their "former" anthem singer on Twitter.
There certainly was a wave of online criticism – one that briefly landed on British journalist Mark Donnelly, who was apparently mistaken for the singer on Twitter.
But Carreau said the Canucks organization may have simply decided to distance itself from views that many people believe are reckless to promote in the midst of a pandemic.
"This seems to be one of those situations where someone speaks out for what they believe to be true, and sometimes those values are in conflict with their employer," she added.
A Leger poll from September found the vast majority of Canadians support mask mandates, while only about 10 per cent of them support anti-mask demonstrations.
Donnelly chose to appear at such a rally in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, where he told a crowd of hundreds that social distancing, masks, restrictions and business closures are "ineffective, unnecessary and harmful."
"I am standing up against what I feel is tyranny, plain and simple," Donnelly said.
Carreau said the widespread impacts of the pandemic – from people's health to their financial well-being – have left many Canadians uninterested in engaging with opposing viewpoints.
"There's less tolerance, for sure. People are stressed, most have either a friend or family member that's been impacted," she said. "It hits so close to home."
Carreau noted that the singer, by his own admission in a radio interview over the weekend, understood that he could lose his role with the Canucks by taking part in the rally, but did so anyway.
Being clearheaded about that reality is key when people decide how they want to express themselves, particularly online, Carreau said.
"There are too many people who damage their careers terribly by accident just by not thinking twice before they put stuff on the internet," she said.
That goes for people on the left and right sides of the political spectrum. While cancel culture is sometimes painted as a progressive tactic, there have been many campaigns launched against businesses and artists by conservatives, including one targeting comedian Kathy Griffin.
Earlier this year, outgoing Republican president Donald Trump, who has railed against cancel culture, famously urged his own supporters to boycott Goodyear Tires after a photo circulated indicating employees weren't allowed to wear "Make America Great Again" hats – or any other political attire – in the workplace.