Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is the NBA Anti-Gay?

The definition of a role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.

Some of our role models like Steve Nash and Sean Avery have exemplified this definition in recent weeks, while others like Kobe Bryant (the face of the NBA for over a decade) and Joakim Noah have distorted and misrepresented it.

It was only a month ago Bryant uttered a homophobic slur at a referee in a playoff game. It was a mere 48 hours ago that Noah yelled the same slur in his playoff game in Miami to a Heat fan. There's the war on crime, the war on drugs, and the war on terror. What about the war on homophobic slurs? Commissioner Stern fined Kobe $100,000. Joakim was fined $50,000.

Even though Noah makes substantially less salary, shouldn't his monetary punishment be above Bryant's?

Noah had a blueprint four weeks ago of what not to do, what not to say, and made his insensitive remark anyway. But, there's a bigger issue than the amount player's should be getting fined.

Why are they saying these slurs in the first place?

I get that sports is an emotional game, things are said in the heat of the moment without thinking. Inhibitions to the wind and an athletes guard down is a lethal combination.

This is the scariest part.

At a player's most vulnerable and truthful moment, gay slurs are what comes out of their mouths. It makes me wonder what other thoughts are swimming around within the deep catacombs of their minds that often remained bottled up. Nothing is going to change until the sports society as a whole supports gay rights, but more importantly acknowledges its existence in the locker room and among team mates.

Studies show one out of every six men are gay.

It was a big step when Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts came out last week, but what the gay community needs is a leap. It's great that some athletes have come out to support gay rights, but what the gay community needs is many.

And, where's the current male star athlete who hasn't come out of the closet because of fear, stigma, and public perception?

It's 2011.

I thought we lived in a time of acceptance and understanding, of open-minds and open-hearts. Sports has been the pioneer on many issues, the catalyst of an ordinate amount of change. From Jackie Robinson to Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, sports has always been the Ferrari of change. But, as gay issues stand, it seems the sports community remains stagnant, turning a perpetual blind-eye.

There's a silent war between the homophobic and the unprejudiced. The unaccepting only need a handful to put fear into the collective. Charles Barkley said, "Athletes aren't role models." Okay, fine. But we do need them to be decent human beings. Whether we like it or not, our youth revere their sports icons as Gods. I did growing up.

Imagine the power a male star athlete coming out would have on a youth coming to terms with his or her own sexuality. Or, in a broader sense, the strength it would give to a child who is just "different". The child with ADHD. The one with Asperger's syndrome. The child with tourette's. The one with acne. The kid who is too tall, too short, too skinny, too fat. The one with glasses and braces, the Jew, the Muslim.

Can you imagine the strength they would gain from their icons embracing their differences instead of shielding them. Children would truly believe there is no mold they have to fit into, that cool isn't a generic model or a xerox copy of someone else. A realization that individuality is cool, uniqueness the most admirable trait.

Other than the sports sphere, sexual orientation holds as much weight as a feather duster. But, in the macho, testosterone driven world of athletics, homosexuality, especially in locker room land is taboo. Denial and narrow-minds seem to rule this realm with an ignorant hand. 

Our sports heroes need to stop pretending homosexuality doesn't exist. We need the sports figures who we would never expect to take a stand, to do just that. And, in this case, power is in numbers. Sexual preference need no longer be evaded.

After all, role models should know better.

No comments:

Post a Comment