Friday, February 09, 2007

Bringing Your Gayness on the NBA

Former NBA player John Amaechi revealed this week that he is gay, becoming the first NBA player (active or retired) to come out of the closet. While some have applauded Amaechi’s decision to come out, most of the sports world has greeted the news with a yawn. I think it’s great that Amaechi has gone public, but my guess is that within two weeks most of the world will have forgotten the sexual orientation of a less-than-mediocre NBA player who last played in 2003.

The more interesting story here is not simply that Amaechi has come out, but rather the reaction of the rest of the league. A few players and coaches have openly supported Amaechi—including Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, former Amaechi coach Doc Rivers, and (somewhat shockingly) Isiah Thomas. Others, like Chauncey Billups, have said something along the lines of, As long as he plays well, I don’t care what he does in his private life. Fair enough.

Several others, however, have been less kind. Take Shavlik Randolph (a Duke grad, FWIW) of the 76ers: "As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine. . . . As far as business-wise, I'm sure I could play with him. But I think it would create a little awkwardness in the locker room." Or the 76ers Steven Hunter: “For real? He's gay for real? . . . Nowadays it's proven that people can live double lives. I watch a lot of TV, so I see a lot of sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness.” And then there’s Lebron, who is in some respects the NBA’s most important and visible player: “With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy. So that's like the number one thing as teammates . . . we all trust each other. You've heard of the in-room locker room code. What happens in the locker room stays there. It's a trust factor."

My problem is not so much that these players made these comments—athletes live in a macho, intolerant world, so macho, intolerant words are hardly a surprise. No, my problem is that, aside from a few “tsk, tsks” in the media, these players have been subject to zero disciplinary action. No private or public reprimand, no fines, no required retractions of the quotes, no teammates or coaches calling out Randolph or Hunter for their blatantly stupid comments.

And don’t think for a second that the NBA is above punishing athletes for their words. Why just this very week the Bulls Tyrus Thomas said the following about participating in the NBA dunk contest: "I'm just into the free money. That's it. I'll just do whatever when I get out there." The Bulls stated that the comments were "a poor reflection on Tyrus individually and a poor reflection on the Bulls organization," and then fined Thomas $10,000 and required him to make a public apology. Players are also often fined for things such as criticizing officials.

So, what we’ve learned here is that admitting that you play basketball for money is a punishable offense, but homophobic comments are not. Not exactly a surprise, then, that no active player has come out of the closet, even though statistically it is almost guaranteed that several NBA players are gay (and Amaechi hints at such, but doesn’t reveal names).

It is no great revelation to say that it will be incredibly difficult for an active athlete to come out of the closet. But until coaches and management mandate changes in locker room culture, it will be nearly impossible. NBA Commissioner David Stern could have pushed this process forward by using this opportunity to make clear that the NBA will not tolerate homophobia. Instead, Stern cowardly commented that "[w]e have a very diverse league. The question at the NBA is always, 'Have you got game?' That's it, end of inquiry." The 76ers organization has been silent regarding Randolph’s and Hunter’s comments.

The changes necessary for sports to be welcoming of a gay athlete are simply not going to come from the players—they must come from the top down. Jackie Robinson did not break into the Major Leagues because that was what the players wanted. Rather, the Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, decided that he wanted Robinson on his team (for moral and business reasons), and his players, and opponents, would just have to live with it.

So again, good for Amaechi, but shame on (most of) the coaches, executives, owners, and Commissioner for not taking a strong stance on this issue. I’m never really sure if the sports world leads the way on certain social issues, or if it is merely a reflection of society’s current stance on such issues. But I do know that when a player is brave enough to play NBA basketball as an openly gay athlete, it will be an important milestone, both for the gay community and society generally. Unfortunately, until those at the top have the courage to forbid intolerance throughout the league, I doubt a player from the bottom will have the courage to reveal his true self.

27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

MP: thanks for the insightful analysis. Definitely the best N&B post in months. It really is amazing what slime David Stern is. I suppose all he cares about is money and a significant percentage of his fans are homophobes so he keeps his mouth shut. When a young player speaks his mind in a way that could hurt the NBA's business, however, big fines are in order.

2/09/2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

Fantastic post. I would add that LeBron's comments are particularly disappointing for the way they confuse the issue and once again, make being gay seem somehow sneaky or underhanded. Had LeBron said "you know, I want to make it known that I would personally support any teammate of mine who comes out of the closet," then he would be fostering a locker room that values trust. Instead, his comments are the equivalent of Joseph McCarthy saying that communists were violating his trust by hiding instead of being out in the open (when openness would obviously result in ostracism or worse). Gee, thanks LeBron, for the profound words on trust. You ought to be a politician. Then you could explain how homosexuals are somehow responsible for the erosion of the American family.

2/09/2007 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the above anonymous posters....this was a great topic. Good job, MP.

2/09/2007 4:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Re: Mad J.D.'s response to LeBron's comment. I haven't followed this story too closely, but I don't read anything sinister or homophobic into his comments. His quote was:

"With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy. So that's like the number one thing as teammates . . . we all trust each other. You've heard of the in-room locker room code. What happens in the locker room stays there. It's a trust factor"

I think Mad J.D.'s interpretation of his words may be correct. But I think there is an acquitting plausible reading. He is saying that a teammate that conceals their sexual orientation from the rest of the team creates a trust problem. LeBron may be saying this because a basketball team must interact in very close quarters, particularly the locker room, and he may be saying that if a teammate is gay, he has a right to know.

From there, the rest of his comment suggests that he believes a team would loyally protect such a secret, but that he thinks the team should know.

On the other hand, his words could also be plausibly read to suggest that he thinks someone who is closeted is inherently untrustworthy, and that because so much happens in the locker room the players wish to keep secret, a closeted player cannot possibly be trusted to keep the locker room's secrets.

The take home lesson: when speaking on a charged topic, choose your words very carefully. I'm worried LeBron may be closer to the second interpretation than the first, but I don't want to level such a damning indictment of character without being sure.

Putting all this aside, it does raise an interesting question. A locker room is a close environment, where co-workers/superiors will be naked and see each other naked. Can people who are uncomfortable being in the presence of a person sexually oriented towards liking them exclude such persons? I think this is the key question that we have to grapple with. On the one hand, we exclude male coaches and players from the girl's locker room. On the other hand, male athletes routinely allow female sprotscasters into the locker room. I'm not sure where the answer lies on this question. Given that, I turn it over to N&B's astute commenters:

Should people who are uncomfortable being in the presence of a person sexually oriented towards liking them be able to exclude such persons from close environments? Why or why not?

2/09/2007 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, as it's good to keep up to date on important goings-on that I might not otherwise hear about (I'm not much of an NBA follower).

Tom: Although you correctly point out that LeBron's quote is not necesarily homophobic, the following comment he made seems problematic to me:

"if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy"

I don't see how that comment can be interpreted in any other way EXCEPT that "he thinks someone who is closeted is inherently untrustworthy". Of course, the problem with that is the reason people are closeted in the first place is because they feel they cannot trust others to accept them -- a belief which player reactions show is not unfounded.

That being said... I liked the "Sex @ Boalt" post better. :(

2/09/2007 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Tom, that is quite a question. Constitutionally, I believe, sexual orientation discrimination isn't entitled to strict scrutiny or even intermediate scrutiny. If you are gay, you pretty much have to put up with discriminatory measures wrought against you *in public* (didn't Bowers say that private conduct was not punishable? Memory is hazy on all this.). So, constitutionally, that kind of discrimination is probably permissible.

But in reality, it would be both abhorrent and impossible. Sexual orientation is not like gender or race; it is not readily visible/ discernable. Moreover, homosexuality is, in many places, at least taboo if not outright reviled. Forcing people to admit their sexual orientation, in order to enforce some kind of separation scheme would be very difficult. I think such forced admission *would* actually violate the right to privacy and could also subject the gay person to ostracism or even risk of violence.

And, who gets to exercise the privilege? Straights or gays? As a gay woman, I have to admit I'd love to winnow the other gay women out any given crowd of folks and make everybody else leave... but not at the expense of my privacy and safety in other situations.

So basically, you are a fatuous blowh--- just kidding! Good question.

2/09/2007 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom Fletcher strikes again with a reactionary and idiotic comment. He's so reliable!

2/09/2007 7:56 PM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

Tom, your question seems to me to beg an even simpler, more fundamental one, which is this: why would someone be uncomfortable with someone else based on that person's orientation, and why is that revuslion or aversion something that we socially accept? A lot of people will tell you that the idea of homosexuality is so fundamentally upsetting to them that they can simply never be comfortable around "those people." Surprisingly, many of us seem to respect this sentiment even if we don't condone it. I imagine that a hundred years ago, saying "I just don't like black people" was a pretty common blanket statement that went largely unquestioned. 60 (or 2000) years ago, a lot of people probably went around openly saying things like "there's something about Jews that I just don't trust" and were never called on it. I hope someday, society will be as embarrassed about how we treated homosexuals as we are about our treatment of other groups that were subjected to discrimination.

What I'm really concerned about is an undercurrent I detect in LeBron's comments that seems pretty pervasive amongst homophobes, which is the irrational analogy that being a homosexual somehow equals being a sexual pervert. Is LeBron worried that his "trust" will be betrayed when a sexually depraved deviant forces himself on one of his teammates because the nudity and towel-snapping has driven his lust beyond the point of control?. This is completely ridiculous, and harks back to childhood jokes about not bending over around so-and-so--the kind of references that subtly perpetuate the fear and paranoia people feel about homosexuals. If that's not what LeBron is inarticulably afraid of, then what is it? And why would he have a "right to know" anything about his teammate's private lives unless they choose to make them public? Would he say that a surreptitious alcoholic in the locker room is betraying trust? If Drew Gooden harbors a secret crush on LeBron's mom, is Gooden undermining the team if he hides it? This is totally ludicrous. LeBron's comments are homophobic, even if he has couched them in seemingly harmless rhetoric about some locker room code of honor.

And anyway, Dwyane Wade is right for calling LeBron out for his lackluster play. Maybe if he were less suspicious of what's going on in his locker room, he could concentrate on rising to the top of the mediocre Eastern Conference.

2/09/2007 11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hate to say it, but LeBron's comment is 100% compatible with the notion that he had no problem with a team mate being gay -- only that he has a problem with a team mate hiding that he is gay. Do this test. Imagine a LeBron with that attitude, and then re-read the quote carefully and ask yourself if such a LeBron would be lying by saying those words. (No.)

Needless to say, homophobia is at best a poison that ruins the person who suffers from it.

2/10/2007 12:19 AM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/10/2007 9:17 AM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

Mad J.D.'s two-part fundamental question is a good one--but I think the first part of it deserves a little more attention. Why would a person feel a revulsion towards homosexuality? Well, lots of reasons. A few that come immediately to mind: 1) It's what they've been taught. 2) Failure to feel (or at least express) this revulsion is socially unsafe in many circumstances. 3) They're a little bit confused about sexuality and gender generally (as most of us are) and it's a handy place to put the anger that arises from that confusion.

These are only a few of the things that underpin homophobia, but I believe they are representative in that they are not the kinds of motivations that just blink out of existence when 1) confronted with logic or 2) subject to the opprobrium of people who have power over you but whom you will probably never meet.

My point is not that we should accept homophobia because it's hard for people to rid themselves of it. Rather, I think we should recognize it as a complex, multi-layered phenomenon that affects different people in different ways. Simply labelling a remark "homophobic" ignores a lot of important context. The comments reproduced in Max Power's original post actually strike me as grudgingly accepting of homosexuality.

About grudging acceptance: When I was in high school, you were goddamned lucky to find a person who was grudgingly accepting of homosexuality. Someone who could accept you “as long as you don’t try to hit on me” was about the best you were likely to do, in that place and at that time. We should aspire to (and even insist upon) an ungrudging acceptance of other people’s sexuality, but I also believe that grudging acceptance is the way—in reality—that most people and societies get from bigotry to tolerance.

2/10/2007 9:38 AM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Mad J.D., I agree there could well be a troubling undercurrent to LeBron's comments. But I think the sexual orientation/race analogy does not work as well as you use it here, and as well as it has been used in the civil rights community.

I think sexual orientation issues map much more closely to gender issues. And in the gender context, we do recognize socially useful divisions. Why do we have single-sex bathrooms: Is it purely functional - to protect short lines for the patriarchy? Or is due to privacy concerns? Why do we have single-sex locker rooms, showers and sometimes even educational facilities?

I think these restrictions can be justified in various ways, but I think one core justification is to remove the ambiguous, enticing & distracting issue of sexual attraction fro a variety of close contexts.

Let's be honest: if we had co-ed showers, would showering be our primary goal? Supporters of single sex education suggest that students, especially young hormonal students, learn better when they aren't flirting.

Of course, none of these analogies map perfectly. As I framed them, these restrictions prevent people from feeling sexual attraction. A ban on gay players in locker rooms would prevent straight players from potentially being the objects of sexual attraction. Is the reasoning symmetric? I'm not sure. But I think it's a much harder problem than a simple analogy to the problem of racial discrimination. As we've come to finally understand, racial discrimination serves no legitimate purpose. But discrimination on the basis of gender can. I think it's going to be many more conversations and years more of social experience before we decide on which side of that line sexual orientation discrimination falls.

2/10/2007 9:58 AM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

Tom, you ignorant slut.
Don't align yourself, even by implication, with the civil rights community...just kidding.

But seriously. I don't even know what you're trying to do by carving up discrimination into categories with varying degrees of social utility. We still have separate restrooms for men and women because both sexes prefer it that way. It's not Plessy-style segregation, the way it would be if you said "gay players out of the locker room" based on some ignorant conception about the way homosexuals behave. Anyone naked in a locker room has made the decision to indirectly expose himself to other people. Personally, I feel about the same way subjecting my body to the scrutiny of others whether those others are male or female, gay or straight--(to be precise, I'm not very comfortable with it in any situation). I guess what I'm saying is that the carving out of an exception, i.e., anyone can look at each other's naked bodies as long as they don't potentially harbor sexual attraction toward one another, seems, if not artificial, at least a mechanism that causes far more harm than good.

A gay male is still a male, and he has the right to use the same shower as you if he chooses to. He deserves at least the benefit of the doubt that his "primary purpose is to shower," no matter what primary purpose you want to attribute to him.

Compartmentalizing people based on your own uninformed conceptions of them is wrong. As long as people continue to scrape up justifications for it, a la "trust issues" or "privacy issues," they perpetuate a culture in which homosexuals feel the need to remain secretive and hidden. And that's a shame.

To address LeBron James one last time, I'm not writing him off as a hopeless homophobe. What I'm saying is I suspect that his comments were not 100% virtuous. Sure, they COULD be read as having no problem with open homosexuality, but if that's what he meant, why isn't that what he said? What he said was in fact that latent homosexuals are untrustworthy people, with no real offer of support for the alternative, which would be open homosexuality, whether or not you want to impute that. Coupled with the common social stances that Tom Fletcher points to, gay people are presented with these options: Be openly gay and subject to varying degrees of discrimination and even segregation, or be closeted and be considered (and constantly referred to as) a dishonest menace to social cohesion.

Some choice.

2/10/2007 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Tom's point is being written off without really addressing it adequately.

From Mad J.D.:
"We still have separate restrooms for men and women because both sexes prefer it that way."

I think Tom's point goes to why we prefer it that way. Is it because we don't want people with different physical features seeing our physical features, or is because we don't want people who might be more interested in our physical features to see them? Is the latter reason any more morally blameworthy than the former? If so, why is it?

Perhaps for generaly policy reasons we should just not follow the latter reason because we want everyone to get along and avoid discrimination. I personally think that is the best way to do things. But I don't think that means people are necessarily homophobic for subscribing to the latter justification. Such a belief does not necessarily require thinking gay people will oggle them or assault them, just like wanting separate locker rooms for men and women does not necessarily require believing that either sex would be unable to control their oggling and touching.

2/10/2007 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom:

Homosexuality doesn't map directly onto race in terms of the issues at stake in our society today, but that's only because we've come a long way from anti-miscegenation laws. Racial dynamics are much more entrenched and subtle now; back in the day, people openly espoused the belief that it was "against nature" for whites and blacks to procreate together. "Years of conversation and social experience" brought us to our current constitutional framework and system of social mores regarding race, wherein "equality" is institutionalized and many people are not openly racist.

But, it's easy to scratch the surface and find pervasive race hatred. The gut-level revulsion that ignorant people harbor towards those who are Different from them, cannot be legislated away.

And homosexuality is still behind the curve with respect to race -- it's still socially and legally acceptable for people to hate homosexuality and punish homosexuals as "against nature." Even our esteemed prez supports such a stance in the national dialogue. People HATE gays just like they used to HATE blacks. In some communities, it's okay to lynch gays, just like it used to be okay to lynch blacks. Homophobia and the creation of barriers between gays and straights is much, much more than a privacy/ discreetness issue. It, like racism, is about people's fundamental revulsion towards difference, towards the other.

So I agree that it will take years for society to rouse itself from its stupor regarding homosexuality (let's hope such a thing is possible), but I also think that your laissez-faire attitude is inappropriate when it comes to protecting the rights and freedoms of homosexuals, in the mean time. I think racist decision makers probably used to use your 'useful discrimination' argument to justify segregation. Homophobia is a deep and powerful sentiment that ought to be matched with similarly deep and powerful commitment to equal treatment.

2/10/2007 11:19 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Anonymous 11:19, thank you for your insight. Pardon me though, if I hope thst you are wrong. I like to think that people do not "HATE" gays or "HATE" blacks anymore. I'm trying to be optimistic here, but I think that we, as a society, have come a long way in 50-odd years.

Re: your second paragraph, this is exactly why I feel it is so important to discern whether the appropriate analogy is race or gender. For one, 'useful discrimination' is absurd, for another it makes perfect sense. Deciding where issues regarding homosexuality fit on that spectrum is the problem of our time.

Anyway, I hope we can keep working on this issue. I'm impressed with the civility and constructive discussion this thread has perpetrated.

In the meantime, can I start hyping this movie?1

2/11/2007 3:06 AM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Re: word choice.... I met "perpetuated." Post late at night, make stupid mistakes.

2/11/2007 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding LeBron's closeted gayness = untrustworthiness. Read another way, his comments may support a progressive vision of fully integrating LGBT people into society so they don't have to lie in order to keep their jobs, families, etc. Significantly, the same idea plays out in an unexpected place: national security agencies. Gay and lesbian people can be denied security clearances for CIA and other national security positions if they are not OUT to their families, co-workers, etc. The idea is that a closeted CIA-operative will be more subject to blackmail by foreign enemies and thus may compromise national security. Ironically, this is the OPPOSITE of the logic behind "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In essence, the national security experts are encouraging gay people to do the exact opposite: "Do tell"...for national security reasons. Many straight servicemembers who support lifting the ban are embracing this position, arguing that forcing gay people into the closet actually undermines unit cohesion and trust -- in essence, the military sanctions lies and deception through the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

2/11/2007 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I think you've been in the Bay Area too long if you truly believe that gay people or people of color are no longer hated. I would suggest a cross-country trip to Laramie, Wyoming or check out this website: www.godhatesfags.com.

2/11/2007 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 10:34,

Congress passed DADT, and Congress (not the military) has the sole power to undo it.

2/12/2007 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I can respect that people feel very strongly about supporting gay rights, I think it is unfair to say that only that opinion is correct. While you might not agree with it, many feel that being gay is a sin based on the Bible's teachings. Shouldn’t I be entitled to my “homophobic” opinions since they are based on my own religious beliefs? Although I support the separation of church and state and do believe that gay people should have the same legal rights as straight people, I don’t think I should be forced to agree that homosexuality is ok.

2/13/2007 9:35 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Well you're also free to believe that the Earth is 6000 years old, sun revolves around us, only Latin should be used, killing innocents is legitimate when it's a Jihad (or a 500 lbs bomb), etc. You can have a certain viewpoint that's based on your religious persuasion, I, however, have 0 obligation to give that viewpoint any credence. In fact, I consider most viewpoints spawned by religious dogma to be the antithesis of progress and civilization. But that's just me.

2/14/2007 12:35 AM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

The following pretty much sums up my feelings about the biblical argument (hat tip - politicalhumor.about.com):

Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said, "in the eyes of God, marriage is based between a man a woman." I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

2/14/2007 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think 12:35's point neatly encapsulates a view that is probably far more prevalent in sports (and the world generally) than those views expressed by Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady or even Lebron James.

What I suspect (and I suspect everyone suspects) is that Shavlik Randolph's comments, which I believe are homophobic and bigotted, probably only hints at the homophobia that exists in the NBA. Remember, this is something that he said to a writer whom he presumed would publish his thoughts and share them with the world. If anything, my guess is that Randolph thought he was choosing his words carefully.

We don't know what's really said in the locker room, but I think we have reasonon to believe, on the basis of some anecdotes, that it's a lot worse than this (see, e.g., Michael Jordan's treatment of Kwame Brown while in Washington).

Max Power argues that fining players is the appropriate remedy for this. He makes the astute point that Tyrus Thomas is fined for saying something that is nowhere near as offensive. All good points, but I'm nor sure I'm buying.

A fine on a guy like Randolph, or Steven Hunter, or even John Rocker (for those of you who aren't sports fans, he pretty much slammed anyone who wasn't white, Christian, and heterosexual) doesn't teach players to change their views, it merely teaches them to not openly express them. My strong suspicion is that the Shavlik Randolph's of the league simply aren't as savvy about hiding their homophobia as some of his more circumspect colleagues.

All of which may amount to very little, but I do think that rather than parsing LeBron's words for meaning we might be better served by thinking about what's not said, and why athletes, and the culture that fosters them, tends to be so homophobic.

2/14/2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

This probably doesn't add anything new to the discourse, but here's another example of the insidious ignorance that pervades pro sports: Tim Hardaway say he hates gay people. I find his "apology" especially glib and insufficient. It's at the bottom of the story if you want to skip to it. To read the colorful comments in all their glory, though, you'll want to start at the top.

2/15/2007 9:25 AM  
Blogger Willie said...

Et tu Timee.

This is another sad and disappointing instance of a celebrity running his mouth and spouting such terrible venom that it is never ok to say. The original king of the cross-over just joined the ranks of Mel Gibson and Kramer. Can't these people just shut their mouths and maintain their positive aura.

As a wise man told me, Timmy probably had a large number of gay fans because of where he played, but now he just "shit all over them." Timmy, tell me you were at least drunk at the time.

2/15/2007 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few remarks:

I think LeBron was just upset at the idea that another player could be gay and he wouldn't know about it. It was a disturbing thought to him. So he goes on about 'honesty', etc. etc. I don't think he took any time to think about the real world ramifications of what he was saying. Given what that Tim guy (the other ex-NBA player)said, can you really blame the gay guy for staying in the closet?


As far as locker rooms go, bear in mind that a gay man in a locker room with naked men would not necessarily react like a straight man in a locker room with naked women. It's not a big thrill because we're used to it, and frankly if you want to see dick or get laid, there are much easier ways (safer and convenient) to do that than lurk about in a locker room.


Homophobia: I think there are different forms of it, or at least two. They differ based on their treatment of lesbianism. There's the religion-based homophobia, which condemns lesbians as strongly as gay men (e.g., Pat Robertson going on and on about witches and covens, etc.), and there's the macho homophobia, which has no problem with two women getting it on.

I don't think you can separate macho homophobia from the fear of getting hit on, or in the extreme case, male rape. It's been my observation that unattractive men who are not popular with the ladies are more likely to be homophobic than charismatic, popular guys who don't seem to have a problem and who have female friends (but certainly not always). If a straight guy really has to work at it to get laid, and maybe apply a little coercion, and like with the locker room situation above, he infers that a gay man would do that too.... well, you can connect the dots. It's more of a hunch than a theory and certainly not scientific.

As far as religious homophobia goes, well, they have to draw the line somewhere, don't they? There's really not much prohibited nowadays. Divorce used to be a problem (remember Henry VIII?) but not anymore.

Christians who hide behind their bibles to justify their discriminatory outlooks always remind me of someone I knew a while ago. I had a roommate one summer during college who was an animal-rights activist, vegan vegetarian, etc. For the bay area today, no big deal, but this was long time ago in another part of the country. So her position was quite edgy and hip at the time. And she was always reminding us about it. One day, after considering her lifestyle and beliefs, I asked her if she ever missed eating meat, since I figured I would if I gave it up. And she said, oh no, she never liked it, even when she was little she didn't like the taste and wouldn't eat it. Which is when I realized that I totally misunderstood her. I thought she was making a sacrifice, when really what she had done was parlayed her personal preferences into a position of moral superiority. Which is exactly what a lot of Bible-thumpers are doing with gay issues.

I have no problem with people who object to homosexuality based on religion. The question is, though, do they apply all the rules to themselves, as well? Current conservative Christian thought in America is that once you're married, it's a sexual free-for-all. But that ain't what the Bible sayeth. According to Catholic teachings based on the Bible, sex must be within marriage and must be open to procreation, i.e., no more blowjobs. How many of these Christians who are so opposed to gay marriage would support a Constitutional amendment that also outlaws divorce and oral sex (let's make it a felony with mandatory prison time). Probably none. Hypocrites.

There are other reasons why they're ridiculous but this is already too long.

In any case, I'd rather have the out-and-out hate of Tim Hardaway than some sniveling P.C. pronouncement that you can tell from a mile away is just a cover. At least the former is honest.


OK, I have to go back to reading now.

2/15/2007 7:03 PM  

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