Friday, February 16, 2007

Someone Has Some Balls

If anyone has been following the news then they have heard how retired NBA player John Amaechi came out of the closet. The first retired pro-basketball player to do you can expect some flack to come his way, and of course it did, via some homophobic remarks courtesy of NBA player Tim Hardaway. As Amaechi states, and I agree, Hardaway's remarks give body to the underlying sentiment in sports that it is a "man's world." Femininity is not welcome and especially those not deemed manly enough are not either.

Anyone who has studied sexism and homophobia know that the two go hand in hand and often find supportive ideas in each other. The "stereotypical male" (one who is tough, does not show emotion, thinks women are better at things that guys do not do) often views women, gays, and lesbians in the same light. In the stereotypical man's point of view, there are things that men are supposed to do and everything else women can do. When you throw a wrench in this ideology, such as same sex love, these beliefs are challenged. "Who makes the money?" "Who raises the kids?" "Who does the dishes?" and my favorite "Who is the top?" are all notions that stem from a binary view of human sexuality and gender. The narrow view that one sex (different than gender) must do things while the other sex fulfills other tasks is directly challenged when there are not two sexes involved in a relationship. Due to many people's upbringing and/or limited exposure to the world, sexist and/ or homophobic people believe the confines of the sanctioned male/female relationship goes against nature and society. Yet, the biggest source of alternative ways of living often come from straight couples, especially throughout time. The family as we know it today, or ones that conservatives often cry about the good ole days, is a fairly recent creation in human history. In the world of sports, where masculinity dominates, ideas of same sex love certainly stand out and seem counter-productive to masculinity and the world itself. Anyone familiar with sports should know how recently it was that people of color and women have broken into the pro-athletic world. Funny, how the same type of statements where made against both. The sad part is that Hardaway does not realize that it was not too long ago that statements about the locker room "ethos" was made about black men entering professional sports.

I think this story has two silver linings (one is not enough anymore). The first being that Amaechi's coming out did exactly what he wanted. It caused the issue to be raised, thanks in large part to Hardaway for keeping the momentum up and giving credence to Amaechi's and other gay and lesbian activist rights group's concerns. Hardaway, in his phone interview, showed the sports world, and anyone else listening, exactly the bigotry that gays and lesbians face in sports, but especially in professional sports. The need for this issue to be addressed is high, and from my point of view is a excellent platform to discuss the problems of masculinity and binary gender roles.

The second lining comes from the fact that when Hardaway made these comments in his phone interview, he was touring on behalf of the All-Star Weekend in Vegas, and in turn was on their clock. Shortly after the comments reached the news, Hardaway's tour ended. NBA commissioner, David Stern, let Hardaway go from his position saying that "'It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours,' Stern said in a statement Thursday." Well kudos to them, I am glad someone recognizes bigotry when they hear it. Another point was brought up while I was in the locker room at the gym, almost always on a sports channel. I can not give credit to the commentator or the show (ESPN was airing it), but when one host asked his two colleagues what they thought of the situation, one aptly replied that if the statement had been made about a person of color, or a women, no conversation would be happening right now. As in turn saying that because these were homophobic remarks made against a gay man, made it ok to question whether this is something worthy of news time, which was wrong in of itself. The comment surprised me. Either some people in the sports world are ready for change or they are putting on the pretty nice pony show for the public. Whatever the case, a dialogue has been rekindled about the state of gays and lesbians in professional sports and hopefully something gets done.

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