Daniel, Annie, this little scandal of yours didn’t have to go this far. Unfortunately, we’re in a slow news cycle right now, so a name-calling session between two of the most successful, visible, and polarizing figures in the poker world is going to warrant some debate. Believe me, once I heard this story, I crossed my fingers that I would read a statement on Negreanu’s blog, maybe a parting shot from Duke’s camp reiterating that calling a woman the c-word is never, ever right, and that some random Swede would show up on Full Tilt and bomb off $5 million to Phil Ivey so there would be something else to write about.
But there was no random Swede. And instead of doing his best to walk back the comment with an official apology to Duke and anyone else he offended, the most anyone got from Negreanu was an “aw shucks” mea culpa tacked onto the end of an interview he did with Kimberly Lansing on worldpokertour.com.
“The c-word is a really bad word. You don’t say that to women. Really, really bad. Women, especially in America, hate the c-word. So, if women out there were offended by the c-word or my use of it, apologies to all of you because it was not supposed to be in print. If I was going to put it in print, I would put it on my own blog. But I don’t use the word regularly,” Negreanu said.
In Hollywood, a fire like this is often put out with a wave of a savvy publicist’s PDA. There’s a statement, an apology, and barring further disaster the story goes away in a few days, replaced by a new scandal. This story had a great shot at going that way if even one of the parties involved had wanted it to. Negreanu could have started that ball rolling by putting out a 200-word apology on his (widely read, nationally syndicated) blog. The matter might have blown over right then and there. However, in this case, it seems like neither of them wanted to let the matter go so easily. Negreanu didn’t want to apologize to Duke. And Duke didn’t want to take this matter lying down.
But let’s go back for a minute to Negreanu’s purported shock over the fact that the reporter who interviewed him went ahead and printed his statement. Since Negreanu did not indicate that their conversation was off the record, everything within it was fair game, bad language and all. That’s journalism 101. If you are speaking to a reporter and do not want something printed, your best option is probably not to say it in the first place. One would think that someone like Negreanu, who has more or less been a public figure for the last six years and a worldwide ambassador for his chosen profession, not to mention a frequent presence on television and in the media, would understand this.
Annie Duke has probably been called the c-word and worse countless times at the poker table over the course of her career. Heck, Joan Rivers called her "Hitler" on primetime television. Being conditioned to abusive language, however, doesn’t ever excuse the use of it. I do not know Duke, but from what I do know of Daniel Negreanu, I will say that he is a passionate person who is not afraid to speak his mind and stoke the flames of a public argument. The personal sentiments he imparted toward Duke in his statement, I believe, were genuine. The sheer strength of his language tips his hand in that regard. His word choice is undeniably horrifying. And while we don’t know whether or not he understood that in the moment, what I’m pretty sure he didn’t say was, “Oh, crap don’t print that mate, that was off the record.” If he had, we’d have heard about it by now. Instead, Negreanu’s gaffe lies somewhere on the spectrum between “oops” and a manifestation of his tendencies toward the controversial.
What set off this flurry of obscenities in the first place? Interestingly enough, it was a question about Negreanu’s feelings toward the men who decided to crash the World Series of Poker Ladies’ Event this summer. While Duke encouraged the mens’ behavior, believing that ladies’ tournaments should be abolished, Negreanu disagreed, and took further umbrage to the fact that someone so interested in “sexual equality” would declare herself to be “The Best Female Poker Player in the World” by way of a prominently displayed line of purple text on the front page of her personal website. Back when Negreanu initially made these comments during the WSOP, Duke retaliated by saying that her UB overlords added the text in question to her site and there was nothing she could do about it.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t make Annie Duke for a woman who is easily ordered around, especially when it comes to her own personal branding. So that excuse doesn’t hold a lot of water with me. But when you really get down to it, both parties are hypocritical. Negreanu wants Duke to respect women by allowing them to play in ladies-only tournaments if they choose to do so. Duke wants Negreanu to respect women by not calling them c***s, even one he happens to intensely personally dislike.
This war of words is about so much more than, well, words. Any forum rat will tell you that at its core, the Negreanu/Duke feud is really about Ultimate Bet. Negreanu’s issues with UB date all the way back to 2002 and in the wake of the superuser scandal, Negreanu made no secret of his distaste of anything to do with the site. He even made a comment on The Hardcore Poker Show in October 2009 saying that Ultimate Bet should no longer exist after what happened. Since Duke continues to endorse UB and has, at times, played the role of their public defender in the media, Negreanu’s attitude toward her has continued to sour.
I get the UB beef, Daniel. You certainly have a lot of people on your side there. But its time for you to realize the consequences of a comment like that. Think of it like fixing a leak in your game. Understand what you’re doing wrong and nip it in the bud. You guys don’t have to be friends. But I do believe she deserves an apology.
And should you happen to say something unintended in an interview again? Don’t try to blame the messenger.
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