Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the Montreal Canadiens showed a "lack of judgment" by drafting an 18-year-old who was fined recently for sharing sexually explicit photos of a woman without her consent.
Trudeau is the latest high-profile figure to criticize the NHL club over its decision to select Logan Mailloux for its first-round pick in Friday's entry draft.
"As a life-long Habs fan, I am deeply disappointed by the decision," Trudeau told a news conference in Moncton, N.B.
"I think it was a lack of judgment by the Canadiens organization. I think they have a lot of explaining to do to Montrealers and fans right across the country."
Just days before the draft, the website Daily Faceoff revealed Mailloux had been fined for breaking Swedish law after he shared with his teammates photos of a sexual encounter.
The woman involved went to police and Mailloux was charged with invasion of privacy and defamation. He was 17 and playing for SK Lejon in Sweden's third division at the time of the incident.
Mailloux, of Belle River, Ont, released a statement ahead of the draft asking teams not to select him, saying he hadn't demonstrated "enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 draft."
Major sponsors express 'discomfort'
The Canadiens chose him anyway for the 31st pick overall. Since then, Quebec politicians, women's groups and fans have condemned the team's decision.
"The choice to draft Mr. Mailloux doesn't align with the positive change I want to bring to sports and society as a whole," Quebec's minister responsible for the status of women, Isabelle Charest, said Saturday.
Since Monday, three of the team's major sponsors — the Jean Coutu pharmacy chain, the St-Hubert restaurant chain and the financial services cooperative Desjardins Group — have released statements saying they are rethinking their relationship with the Canadiens.
"We are currently analyzing the situation concerning our partnership with them. We believe in second chances, but isn't it a bit too early?" said Josée Vaillancourt, head of communications for St-Hubert.
A spokesperson for the Desjardins Group said the cooperative has contacted the club to "share our discomfort" with the draft choice.
After selecting Mailloux, the Canadiens said in statement they intend to provide Mailloux with "the tools to mature."
But Geoff Molson, the team's president and co-owner, has yet to comment publicly about the matter, despite the growing controversy. The team has promised to release a statement by Wednesday.