More gay slurs from athletes: Sports leagues starting to address homophobiaAround the Nation, Bottom Highlights Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Here we go again. With Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls recent homophobic outburst at a Miami Heat fan, the subject of homophobic slurs is garnering national attention.
During the game, Noah had said “F**k you, faggot” to the fan. It subsequently incurred him a scornful $50,000 fine from the NBA.
Noah apologized after the game. “The fan said something that was disrespectful toward me. And I went back at him. Got it on camera,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not like that. I’m an open-minded guy.”
Months before, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers shouted homophobic abuse at a referee who had penalized him for a technical foul. Bryant later apologized and was fined $100,000.
Then Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell made national headlines for tossing anti-gay slurs at a group of fans in San Francisco.
So, what has to happen?
Homophobic slurs are nothing new to professional sports. However, they are more visible, more noticed and more people are protesting them. They are no less offensive than they were years ago; they are just more socially unacceptable.
And now an expert from the Society for the Study of Sport in Society at Boston’s Northeastern University is saying that we should use this recent spate of gay slurs to tackle homophobia in sports head-on.
Jarrod Chin of the Society said, “Kobe Bryant, Joakim Noah and Roger McDowell are not any different from many people in our society who use offensive language like that on a daily basis. These incidents provide a real opportunity for the NBA and MLB to take a strong stance against homophobia.”
When the Brave’s coach was suspended, Gloria Allred, acting as attorney for the offended fan, said the discipline showed that MLB “believes that homophobic slurs, sexually lewd conduct and threatening behavior by coaches or any other person employed at a game in the major league will not be tolerated.”
But have we heard it all before and do these miniscule fines compared to the wages these stars earn really mean they will stop. Are bodies like the NBA doing enough?
Back in 2009, Justin Bourne a former minor league hockey player wrote a piece in his USA Today column entitled, “It’s time to end the use of gay slurs in hockey.” His article opened with, “In my days as a hockey player, I did nothing but contribute to hockey’s culture of homophobia and prejudice against gays. I used gay slurs more times than I’d like to admit. Six months after I left my last professional locker room, I felt a twinge of regret, followed by a full-out, stomach punch of regret. And by the time I finished the first draft of this column, I was disgusted with myself.”
Bourne discusses the issue throughout his piece recognizing the problem and ends with, “It’s time to acknowledge we’ve been unfair to the gay community, that the culture of our sport can be misogynistic, homophobic and cruel. More important, it’s time to make a stand that we want it to change.
Noah in his apology stated, “I don’t want to be a distraction to the team right now.”
Think how much of a team distraction it would have been if the NBA had suspended him, rather than fine him. Maybe then the perpetrators of these offensive outbursts would really understand the meaning of “totally unacceptable under any circumstances.”
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