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Gay is OK even in sports
Tolerance is not the first word that comes to mind when describing the atmosphere surrounding men’s basketball and football, and it’s obvious why. Two recent events shed light on the sports’ homophobic tendencies, despite strides the gay community has made toward achieving equality.
The first and most explosive example is the recent scandal involving former Rutgers University men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Rice. For those of you behind on your scandal news, here’s a recap: Rice was fired April 3 after videos of him yelling homophobic slurs and physically assaulting players during practice were leaked. It was later revealed that Rutgers administrators knew about the abuse last year, prompting the public to demand top administrators be fired, as well.
Rice’s most disseminated quote from the video is, “You f—king fairy. You’re a f—king fa—t.”
That same week, an NFL internal investigation determined there was no “specific evidence of any violations” regarding allegations that teams asked potential players about their sexuality during the NFL combine, according to an April 4 Washington Post article. Although the league found no wrongdoing on its own part, Nick Kasa, a player at the combine, said he was asked “if he liked girls” during team interviews.
It is not enough to call these incidences terrible and wrong because that’s obvious. To prevent such hatred from occurring, it is necessary to examine why these situations continue to happen and address the problem at the source.
Sports communities are known for their intolerance of gays, a sentiment often attributed to the machismo culture of men’s sports. But perhaps we are misdiagnosing the root of the problem.
A handful of people in power at sporting institutions are bigots, but some of them, like NFL free agent Brendon Ayanbadejo, are outspoken gay rights activists. This is no different than the mixture of bigots and activists within society in general, yet the sports community is often singled out. The sad reality is that there are still people in our society, lots of them, who hate gay people. This dichotomy is just a reflection of the societal norms that allow people to believe that it is OK to oppress someone’s personal freedoms because of who they are. Mentalities need to change before we can see change in individual communities like sports.
Unfortunately, we live in a country that still sends the message that gay people are somehow lesser citizens. The fact is gays don’t have equal rights, whether it’s the right to play sports without having their sexuality questioned, legal protection from hate crimes or the right to marry whom they love. Perhaps once society sends the message that it’s OK to be gay, sports communities will follow suit.
Until that time comes, incidents like Rice’s homophobic slurs and the NFL’s less than proper interrogating will continue. We should continue to call them out for being hateful and discriminatory to fight the misconception that gay people don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else.