Burke: Off-ice violence unacceptable

CALGARY, Alberta -- Brian Burke believes players who take aggression from the ice into their personal lives don't deserve to earn professional-athlete wages.

The Calgary Flames' president was asked at the Global Business Forum how he would have handled the Ray Rice scandal.

"The notion that 'I get paid to fight on a hockey rink so that same level of violence is acceptable on the street or in my home,'" Burke said. "And if a player can't separate them, then the player doesn't deserve to earn professional-athlete wages."

A recent video showing Rice, a star NFL running back, assaulting his then-fiancee has started a debate over how pro sports leagues should deal with an athlete's violent behavior outside the game.

Whenever there's a controversy in another sport, Burke said, he weighs how he'd handle it with his team.

"What would we do if one of our players did this? How would we react? Every time we have an issue in another sport, we dry run it internally. We've done it a lot the past week," he said.

Burke called it a balancing act, adding that any form of domestic violence is unacceptable but citizens are entitled to due process if accused of a crime. However, he said that if he had evidence a player had assaulted someone off the ice, he'd have to act.

"So in the Rice case, when there's a video, we don't have to guess what happened there," he said. "That case, we'd say, 'We're done with this player. He's done with us.' We're going to do the right thing first."

Professional athletes are in the public eye, so it's expected they be held to a high standard, Burke said. If there's a financial penalty or lawsuit results, so be it, he said.

"These jobs pay well," Burke said. "There's lots of people who will do them if you don't want to do them on those terms."

Mario Lefebvre, co-author of "Power Play: The Business and Economics of Pro Sports" said fans care how such issues are handled

"And if they feel like the right decision's been taken, then they're going to go on and continue to support," he said. "I think you're better to be proactive about it."