Duke basketball and homophobia

A writer for the New Republic, who attended Duke, writes an essay about how the Blue Devils team has been subjected to more homophobic taunts over the years than any other. From Christian Laettner to Bobby Hurley to J.J. Redick to Greg Paulus "kissing a boy," the easiest way some Duke haters have to vent is to pull out the "Duke is gay card."

The writer, Seyward Darby, details the litany of anti-Duke hate with a homophobic tinge, much of which we have covered on Outsports. Stuff like this, and this, and this. An item we had recently on "Greg Paulus kissing a boy," drew a spirited debate among our readers on whether it was offensive. But Darby is offended.

I'm well aware that homophobia is all too common in the world of sports -- and hardly the exclusive province of Duke haters .... And yet, while it's obviously hard to quantify the assertion that Duke is the object of more homophobia than other teams, it's also hard to think of any other squad in college hoops that has seen so many of its players singled out so prominently for gay bashing in recent years.

She then pinpoints why he thinks this is happening.

The answer, I think, has something to do with race and class. Disparagers of Duke typically frame their opposition to the school, and its basketball team, in terms of anti-elitism: Duke, according to this view, is a private school plopped in the Carolina Piedmont, where it caters to wealthy, mostly white elites who have zero regard for the local community. ...

That's a defensible sentiment, as far as it goes, even a liberal one in many respects. But, in the world of sports, being white as well as wealthy often translates into a perceived softness. (And Duke's white players seem to attract the lion's share of the homophobia directed at the team.) For many Duke bashers, expressing anti-gay sentiment seems to be just one more way of delivering the message that Duke players are whiny, wimpy, pampered products of privilege.

I think she gets it right. Using gay as a slur is still acceptable, since even gay people disagree on what they find offensive. And in sports, gay = soft = not masculine. In addition, Duke basketball is a perennial power, which drives a lot of fans crazy with hatred and jealousy; hell, even I often root against Duke for reasons I can't really articulate (to me Duke = Yankees = Cowboys = Notre Dame).

If Duke stunk, none of this would be occurring, so a segment of Duke haters (still a distinct minority) see the only way to slam Duke players is to de-masculinize them, and what easier way they playing the gay card? I encourage you to read the piece and post your comments below.

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