Jason Bailey lasted only one season in the Ducks organization, but it’s becoming a memorable one.
A third-round draft pick by Anaheim in 2005, the forward turned pro three years later and was assigned to the Bakersfield Condors, then the Ducks’ ECHL affiliate. Bailey, who is Jewish, is suing the Ducks for unspecified damages stemming from alleged discrimination against him by two Condors coaches during the 2008-09 season.
According to multiple reports citing documents filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, Bailey claims he was the target of anti-Semitic remarks. Additionally, Bailey alleges that Condors head coach Marty Raymond and assistant coach Mark Pederson forced him to travel apart from the team, and he was “rarely given any ice time,” because he is Jewish.
Raymond was suspended for one week by the Condors and is still the team’s head coach. Pederson, who was suspended two weeks at the time, left after the season to coach in Europe. Bailey was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Shawn Weller in September 2009. Bailey has spent all of the last two seasons – and is still playing for – Ottawa’s top farm team, the Binghamton Senators.
A Ducks spokesperson said late Tuesday that the team cannot comment on the case.
The most interesting facet here might not be the substance of the allegations, but who should be legally held at fault if they’re true.
The Condors organization has never publicly stated why Raymond or Pederson were
suspended – something that rarely happens at the highest levels of professional
sports. There were some fairly loud rumors at the time (which I couldn’t confirm) that some form of racism was the reason, and perhaps the quotes and behavior Bailey alleges against Raymond and Pederson won’t be disputed by the Ducks.
In May 2009, three months after the coaches were suspended, Condors team president Matthew Riley made some revealing comments to bakersfieldnow.com. The website ran with an anonymous source that identified Bailey as the target of the coaches’ racist behavior. Riley wouldn’t confirm the allegation, but told the site: “Our owner’s Jewish. So obviously we took the matter or
would have taken the matter very seriously, and methodically and done
the right thing” [italics mine].
That the president of the Bakersfield Condors – not someone within the Ducks organization – took it upon himself to discipline the coaches reveals a significant fact: The two teams are separate entities. Marty Raymond was hired in 2002, six years before the Condors (then part of the now-defunct West Coast Hockey League) were affiliated with the Ducks. Pederson was hired in 2005, probably chosen by Raymond himself.
NHL teams don’t have much influence on their ECHL affiliate clubs beyond scouting and providing players. It’s a much looser relationship than in Major League Baseball, for example, where a team will assign coaches throughout an organization. ECHL rules provide an explicit scope for all NHL affiliation agreements – things like the amount of reimbursements to the affiliate club for an assigned player, or who covers a foreign player’s immigration costs – but it’s limited.
A report on CNN.com late Tuesday delved further into the Ducks’ role in attempting to resolve the matter:
According to the lawsuit, Bailey in 2009 complained to the
Bakersfield coaches about the “anti-Semitic hostile work environment”
and spoke to Anaheim Ducks assistant general manager David McNab, who
told him the organization “found his complaints unbelievable.”
Bailey was sent to the Iowa Chops, where he got no playing time, the athlete contends.
Ducks tried to send him to the Central Hockey League, but when he
claimed the move would be a breach of his contract, the team backed down
and suspended Raymond and Pederson briefly and told them to write
apology letters, the lawsuit states.
Bailey was first recalled to Iowa on Jan. 7, 2009, played two of the next seven games, then was sent back to Bakersfield on Jan. 21. He was promoted to Iowa again on Jan. 28, and didn’t play in any of the Chops’ 12 games, before he was sent back to Bakersfield on Feb. 23.
According to a report on the website TMZ.com, Bailey alleges the Ducks were “happy to be rid of him” when they traded him to the Senators. If nothing else, the Ducks had an active hand in Bailey’s fate after Raymond and Pederson were suspended. However, neither coach was an employee of the Anaheim Ducks.
CNN.com reports that Bailey claims in his suit that he lost income, benefits and suffered humiliation. I’m no legal expert but proving that the Ducks, and not the Condors, bear the burden for that responsibility will be an interesting and insightful exercise.