John McDonough’s silence during Blackhawks scandal fallout shows his cowardice

McDonough hasn’t spoken publicly even once since his firing as Blackhawks president, much less since an investigation revealed he led the Hawks’ efforts to cover up alleged sexual assault.

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Former Blackhawks president John McDonough hasn’t spoken publicly in 18 months.

Nam Y. Huh/AP file photo

Where is John McDonough?

It has been 18 months since the harsh, arguably dictatorial man was fired from his post as Blackhawks president.

It has been five months since Kyle Beach’s lawsuit first told the world an alleged sexual assault had occurred in May 2010, on McDonough’s watch.

It has been three days since an independent investigation concluded that McDonough not only knew about former video coach Brad Aldrich’s alleged sexual assault of Beach but also hosted and took charge of a meeting where Hawks executives discussed the allegations and chose not to report Aldrich for weeks.

And still, McDonough — for decades one of the most powerful figures in Chicago sports — has not come up for air, has not made any public comments, has not pointed fingers elsewhere to try to justify his actions (a la general manager Stan Bowman) and certainly has not accepted accountability for his grievous error that ruined Beach’s career.

He has not responded to countless interview requests, by the Sun-Times and surely other media outlets. He hasn’t even released a vague, pre-written statement like the one the Hawks posted the day after his firing, the last time he was heard from.

It was already clear, based on his 13-year reign in which success was measured by only wins and profits, that McDonough is a merciless man.

Now it’s clear he’s also a coward.

When he jumped from the Cubs’ presidency to the Hawks’ in 2007 — arriving at the United Center as abruptly and shockingly as he left in 2020 — he ushered in tremendous change. On the surface, much of it was welcomed: Marketing increased dramatically, the on-ice product improved dramatically, and fans flocked to the Hawks bandwagon.

But behind the scenes, McDonough showed little empathy for the human elements of the organization. He created a cold, rigid internal work environment and exercised his power constantly and universally.

Employees interviewed in the Jenner & Block investigation described him as “extremely controlling and wanting to be — and being — the final decision-maker” on virtually everything.

McDonough, if he ever does speak, probably wouldn’t refute that description. That control fueled him. In a 2013 Sun-Times interview reflecting on his 2008 and 2009 firing spree and fans’ impression of him as “ruthless,” he essentially admitted so.

“If that’s a byproduct of winning, of ‘One Goal,’ then when it’s all said and done, that’s the way it has to be,” McDonough said at the time. “This job is not for the faint of heart.”

Or seemingly, considering his actions, for those with any heart at all.

His handling of the Aldrich situation is therefore hardly surprising, albeit deplorable. When told on May 23, 2010, of the alleged assault, McDonough instead referenced the Cubs’ championship drought and said “the Blackhawks might never make it this far in the playoffs again, and that they needed to think about when to handle the issue,” Bowman told investigators.

At the meeting’s end, McDonough told others to “leave it to” him, the investigation found. He then took no action until finally reporting Aldrich to human resources on June 14, at which time he said he’d “decided not to alert [HR] or outside legal counsel and to not do anything about the incident during the playoffs so as not to ‘disturb team chemistry,’ ” the investigation found.

Yet when interviewed himself by investigators this summer, McDonough — per usual of late — had nothing to say. The investigation report more delicately states he expressed “virtually no recollection of the discussion after the issue had been raised.”

As irresponsible as all involved in the 2010 meeting were, and as bad as many others in the organization have looked during its fallout this year, McDonough shoulders by far the greatest culpability.

His reputation hasn’t been merely tainted. It has been deservedly demolished.

And he’s evidently not even willing to apologize.

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