Washington left wing Brendan Leipsic’s exposed online chat included insults to teammates, jokes about drugs, and disparaging comments about women. How can he survive in a locker room going forward? Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

It doesn’t matter that Brendan Leipsic is a fourth-line nobody for the Washington Capitals, nor does it matter that the only reason he is revealed as a cretin is his private conversations on social media became public. What matters is who he is and how he thinks – in this case, about women. He refers to them as “animals” or a “thing” whose conquest is a “kill.” Gross.

A Neanderthal in private is a Neanderthal at his core. How is this guy supposed to interact with the women in his professional orb going forward? They don’t have to wonder about how he thinks of 51% of the population. He has exposed himself as crude and worse, and his words can’t be unsaid.

A few things to make clear: This isn’t a story because there’s nothing else going on, sports-wise. While it’s true that sports have stopped and the coronavirus pandemic leaves us a void to fill, think about what should be going on right now if the world were normal: the Stanley Cup playoffs, among other things. Put the Capitals in the midst of a second-round series, and the inner workings of Leipsic’s brain would have an impact not just on what the world thinks of him, but on Washington’s lineup on a given night.

Also, Leipsic’s exchange can’t be dismissed as typical for 25-year-old single jocks, just locker-room talk that reached unintended ears. If that’s the assessment, and if other NHL players are waking up to this news thankful it wasn’t them who got caught, then the league needs to make sure the heads of its players are screwed on correctly. I can’t imagine this is widespread groupthink throughout the league. If the people who run teams believe otherwise – and they would know better than I – then let’s use this down time to fire up some classes and teach about respect, dignity and how to relate to other humans.

Further, the fact that Leipsic apologized – I’m sorry, I meant “apologized” – for his actions doesn’t diminish what he did or how he thinks. Rather, in a way, it amplifies the problem and suggests he doesn’t understand his missteps. We’ll get to that.

But first, what happened: Leipsic was involved in an Instagram group chat with friends that included Jack Rodewald, a forward in the Florida Panthers’ organization. Among the topics: doing cocaine. The fact that it took this far into a piece to get to the fact that a member of the Caps was flippantly saying he enjoys “fresh powder” followed by a nose emoji – and more direct references – says something about his transgressions on other fronts.

Those other fronts mostly had to do with women – though, to bring team dynamics into it for an extra layer of flavor, it appears Leipsic even took a shot at linemates Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd, not to mention former teammates from the four organizations for whom he has worked previously. That doesn’t matter as much in the public discourse, but in assessing whether such a backstabber can coexist in a locker room, it’s absolutely pertinent.

But the thrust of the conversation was women: their appearance, whether they are “pigs,” the discussion of various conquests. I’m not going to spell them all out here, but the discourse is demeaning and misogynist, and it can’t just be dismissed as a joke.

Somehow, this chat became public, screen shots that made the rounds even after Leipsic deleted his account. Which brings us to the apology, which Leipsic posted on Twitter. It begins: “Yesterday my friend’s Instagram account was hacked and an individual circulated images that are representative of private conversations I was a part of.”

Kudos for not denying them, I suppose? But consider the shape of his contrition. It starts, quite clearly, with Leipsic trying to paint himself as the victim, some version of, “If some idiot hadn’t hacked my friend’s account, I wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Let him finish out the rest of his note before we pick it apart further.

“I fully recognize how inappropriate and offensive these comments are and sincerely apologize to everyone for my actions. I am committed to becoming a better person by taking time to determine how to move forward in an accountable, meaningful way. I am truly sorry.”

There’s some good there, perhaps something to build on, particularly the bit about moving forward and being accountable. But you know what’s not included: a mention, even indirectly, of any of the women who were objectified and demeaned in the conversation.

This isn’t the first – or likely the last – apology from an athlete or a celebrity that takes this approach. Maybe it seems like a blanket I’m-sorry-to-whoever-I-offended tact makes sure all the bases are covered.

But in doing that, Leipsic – even as he includes the idea that he is committed to being a better person – doesn’t address what he did or said that was wrong, and who might have been hurt by that. There were specific women in this conversation who were disparaged. Addressing them would show an understanding that words can wound, and badly. The victims in these situations too often get overlooked. It wouldn’t be that hard to apologize not only to everyone, but to those who were specifically attacked.

The Capitals were discussing Thursday morning what to do with Leipsic, a conversation that involves all levels of the organization, from ownership to players. You may recall that just last summer, the Capitals had to decide how to handle Evgeny Kuznetsov after the star center tested positive for cocaine. When camp opened last fall, I wrote that Kuznetsov deserved support rather than scorn. If he had a problem, the team could help him overcome it, and it might be the jolt his career – and his life – needed.

Why does Leipsic not feel worthy of the same kind of support? It can’t just be that he’s a bit player who would be an unnecessary distraction should the NHL actually get to play at some point this summer. No, it’s more fundamental. In one exposed online conversation, Leipsic offended current and former teammates, joked about drugs, and treated women as playthings. There’s no explaining that away as a one-off mistake, not to the women he was commenting on nor to those he must interact with in the future.

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