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Tongues Untied: Pro Athletes, Sexuality and Media Hype

 

Darnell: Wade, I could not wait to get your thoughts on some of the recent headlines dominating sports news outlets. From the current publicity on the Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried’s moving video in support of his lesbian mothers to the Manti Te’o media fiasco and the most recent report of Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and Kenny “The Jet” Smith mocking Charles Barkley’s “effeminate” behavior on Inside the NBA, athletes have been the focus of a lot of talk centered on LGBT inclusion and homophobia lately. What are your thoughts, given all that is going on?

Wade: Well, first, I’m shocked and happy that I’ve influenced you to start keeping up with sports. But I was truly inspired and touched by the Kenneth Faired video. I was almost brought to tears watching his demonstration of love and compassion for his mothers. The Manti Te’o situation is very convoluted, however. I just hope he makes it through this ordeal and focuses on doing what he loves, namely playing football. The video of one of my favorite shows, Inside the NBA, which saw Shaq, Kenny Smith and C. Web mocking Charles’ perceived “effeminate” behavior was sad because it reminded me of the times I spent in hypermasculine spaces and chose to mock the perceived feminine behavior of others. The commentators on Inside the NBA have to understand how their actions can influence others to mimic the same behavior and create environments that are unsafe. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t spotlight and promote stories like Kenneth Faried. Instead, some choose to focus on the presumed homosexual identity of Manti’ Te’o, which is not anyone’s business. The goal should be to create a society free of stigma and inclusive of all orientations and identities, not to further stigmatize people.

Darnell: I totally agree. In fact, I think the media tends to place an immense amount of attention on homophobia present within sports or the need for professional athletes to come out, and too little attention on those professional athletes who are actually standing for inclusion — especially black athletes. Take the most recent case with Shaquille O’Neal and the others who mocked Barkley. Some gay media outlets were quick to call them out on charges of homophobia, yet some of the same media outlets tend to fail to adequately address other issues of injustice (like racism within gay spaces, for example). We shouldn’t maintain skewed hierarchies of oppression where issues like racism, transphobia, sexism, class elitism and ableism are placed somewhere below homophobia on the ladder of oppression. That is a problem, but I digress.

 

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