When I first heard that Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant mouthed a homophobic slur in the middle of a national game broadcast Tuesday night, and you know which word it was, all I could think of was a scene from the 2009 film “The Hangover.”
Here’s the dialogue (and video)
Stu Price: They are mature, actually. You just have to get to know them better.
Phil Wenneck: [yells from outside] PAGING DR. FAGGOT. DR. FAGGOT!
Stu Price: I should go.
Melissa: That’s a good idea, Dr. Faggot.
This scene comes just minutes after this line of monologue:
Phil Wenneck: [his answering machine message] Hey, this is Phil. Leave me a message, or don’t, but do me a favor: don’t text me, it’s gay.
This Phil character, and the film in general, connected with such a wide audience because this cartoonish meat head is so true to life.
And Kobe, a role model to many young men, is no better.
By Paul M. Banks
But he’s hardly alone.
Michael Jordan, the superstar of NBA superstars, was known to drop a few f-bombs (and I’m not talking about the word that rhymes with truck) in practice during his days with the Chicago Bulls (but was never caught publicly) As do plenty of other NBA players, ex-players and their fans. Experts on diversity and tolerance have expressed to the media their belief that this instance further signifies that “locker room talk” is “the last bastion of homophobia in this country.”
Bryant was fined $100,000, a decision Bryant said he will appeal. Bryant later issued a statement saying that this outburst was a product of frustration and did not reflect his feelings toward gays. If that’s actually true, then he needs to do a PSA in the same vein of Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes.
“A lot of people are condemning Kobe for this, but it is language that a lot of men use in our society without knowing what it really means and how ignorant and hurtful it is,” says Jarred Chin of the Society for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston.
Chin is further quoted in the Christian Science Monitor. “When you use that word … you are calling out that person to prove that they are really a man, and to do that, they have to assert it through physical violence.”
Not exactly the best association for a basketball player who was once brought up on rape and assault charges.
But Kobe’s loathable persona aside, he’s only just one troglodyte. He’s a very high profile person using language that’s stuck in the cave, but he’s still one guy.
There are plenty of men setting the opposite example, and giving reason for optimism.
-Look first at Brian Sims, a very successful division II college football star. He came out during the season; and his teammates embraced him. Read our three-part interview, to learn more about how many people have been inspired by his courageous example.
-The Stanley Cup made an appearance in last summer’s Pride Parade.
-And you might have heard of a man, Jerry Pritikin, nicknamed the “Gay Forrest Gump,” or as I call him “the most interesting Cubs fan in the world.”
So sports “is gay.” It’s really “just so gay!” And I say that with pride; not prejudice. I say that matter-of-factly; not like some moron with a 14-year-old intellect. Maybe, in the future people will describe men who are athletic, in prime condition, and “manly,” as “so gay.”
The ancient Spartans were a rather manly, tough and conquering bunch: probably the most war-obsessed culture in human history. They were also very much into performing acts of homosexuality on each other.
When will see an openly gay athlete in one of the three major professional sports? Probably not for awhile yet; but progress is being made.
He does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank