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Confronting homophobia in professional sports

During last Sunday’s matchup between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, the TNT cameras, for the second time this season, caught one of the many faces of the NBA spewing a homophobic slur from the tip of his lips. A couple weeks ago, RiPPa made a guest appearance here on ETSF expressing his displeasure for Kobe Bryant. On Sunday, it was Joakim Noah hashing out that nasty f-bomb to a Miami fan. While I am a bit disappointed with both gentlemen, I’m not here to spread the “these men are evil” gospel that you might find on other parts of these internets.

What I am concerned with, however, is how little professional sports have done to this point to take a stance on masculinity’s mostly Anti-Gay agenda. For decades now, this has been a country whose identity has been defined by the power of the marginalized people to fight for equality. Minorities and women have blazed the equal rights trails, and the gay and lesbian community, who have fought equally as hard, have been treated as America’s red-headed step children.

Sadly, we haven’t seen much from any of the major American sports speaking out against anti-gay campaigns, but it’s a beautiful thing to see that the NBA is finally taking a stance.

The Phoenix Suns partnered with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) and produced what is now the official “Think B4 You Speak” public service announcement and Steve Nash appeared in this “New Yorkers For Marriage Equality” Human Right’s Campaign:

It’s only natural that this Phoenix Suns team is taking the initiative to begin the talks on this highly political and sensitive issue, especially considering the of the stance that they took against Arizona’s anti-immigration law and the fact that the Suns’ president and CEO, Rick Weltz, just announced that he’s gay.

While this issue might not mean much to all, I feel that it’s awfully important that it is the NBA that is breaking the gay right’s silence considering that the overwhelming majority of the league is Black (hovering right around 80 percent each year), a community that has not been so kind to the gay community.

In 2008, after gay marriage was allowed in California, Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot, one that would re-ban gay marriage in the state and 70 percent of Black men and women showed up to the ballot box in support of that ban. I’m not necessarily saying that the NBA supporting gay rights is going to be a fix for the Black community, but it’s definitely a start.

At some point, I think it would be a beautiful thing if all four of the major American sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) took some stance in support of not only gay rights, but human rights in general. I understand that all of these leagues are businesses, and they all have a certain image to maintain and a huge amount of face that is constantly being saved, but some things transcend sports. There are more important things in life than who is best at putting a sphere through an iron circle or who can hit a baseball the furthest, but there is no rule saying that those same guys can’t be used as the vehicle to move more positive messages.

I can’t say that I was particular thrilled with Noah, but I’m not mad at the man. The nasty words that both he and Kobe weren’t able to hold back with a national audience watching have served to produce a progeny that promises a brighter future. Things aren’t going to change all at once, but hopefully, this finally sparks a change that has been long overdue.

-P. Barnett
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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