Maybe we should be thanking Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah. Their use of the double F bomb anti-gay slur on national TV has certainly provided the opportunity for a national conversation in Guysportsworld about the causal use of anti-gay slurs by professional athletes. That “FF” so easily rolls off the tongue of male pro athletes like Kobe and Joakim tells us something about the culture of the men’s locker room and what happens when the TV cameras are off. Stressed and pissed off, “caught in the heat of the moment” both athletes dug down into their little bag of verbal insults and dragged out the one that they think carries the most sting and the one that is so common that it is right there on the tip of the tongue.
Thanks to GLSEN, the Ad Council, the NBA, Grant Hill and Jared Dudley another point of view is also out there airing during the NBA play offs and finals. Depressingly though, Grant Hill received some pretty ugly tweets from “fans” about his participation in the Think B4 You Speak PSA. He responded by pointing out that these reactions just illustrated the need for the message in the PSA. Grant Hill and Jared Dudley are giants to me. I cannot express my gratitude strongly enough for their willingness to speak out. Charles Barkley is another former NBA star who is speaking out against anti-slurs and prejudice in sports. I hope they paving the way for others to follow their lead.
These two articles, here and here, are interesting reactions by African-American sportswriters about the use of anti-gay slurs by African-American athletes. Casey Gane-McCalla is concerned about “scapegoating” young Black athletes. He seems to think that, because the use of anti-gay slurs is part of male sports culture from Pee Wee football to the pros as a way to put someone down as weak or soft, we should use let it go. Therefore, it isn’t really about gays, he seems to say. Really? He then shifts the blame to gay athletes who will not come out for the prevalence of homophobia in men’s team sports. Seriously?
Mike Freeman presents the position that Black athletes should know what it feels like to be targeted by slurs and should be able to make the connection that the N-word and F-word are both unacceptable. Unfortunately, some of us still get caught up in the oppression Olympics (can I use the word Olympic in this context without getting sued by the USOC) by arguing about who is more oppressed, Black people or LGBT people. Freeman makes the point, which I agree with, that it is not about determining whether the F-word or the N-word is more offensive. They are both offensive. Period. Plus, just because the two most recent and most publicized examples of athlete homophobia are Black men doesn’t mean that the use of the F-word is any more prevalent among Black athletes than white athletes. I am sure that Black and white athletes are equal opportunity users. It’s about changing sport culture for all athletes.
Let’s just hope that the media attention and the anonymous ignoramuses who call Grant Hill the F-word for taking a stand help sports organizations and individual athletes to better understand the need to set some higher standards of conduct for professional athletes, even in the “heat of the moment.” Young people are watching and learning. Young people are using the same words uttered by Kobe and Joakim to torment their classmates. Young people are killing themselves and getting beat up at school as a result. Professional athletes are role models. What they say and do matters. They can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Increasing numbers of straights athletes are choosing to be part of the solution. Let’s hope it catches on.
Here’s a cool PSA about name-calling from a campaign called Spread the Word to End the Word. Maybe we should play this for NBA rookie camp.