Some Nike crotch-to-the-face ads are catching “homophobic” heat

By Cyd Zeigler jr.

A Nike ad is hitting the streets, and some people are calling it “homophobic;” others, even many gay men, are saying, “not so fast.”
The ad features a basketball player in white dunking on another player in a red uniform. The focus of the image is the white player’s crotch smothering the face of the guy in red. No problem, right? I mean, that’s essentially homoerotic. The issue is with the caption, emblazoned in large letters across the ad: “That Ain’t Right.”

Unquestionably, the most “embarrassing” aspect of basketball is getting dunked on. Poster after poster are printed showing guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James dunking on some unsuspecting soul. As a basketball player, it is THE last thing you want an opposing player doing to you. It ain’t right.
Add to that a little teabagging, and we have a controversy.
The campaign is for the Nike Hyperdunk shoe, which retails for as much as $3,000. Odd that they would open the door to alienating single gay men, since they’re just about the only ones who could afford that shoe.
But to look at that one ad in the series doesn’t tell the whole picture. The campaign is actually a series of ads all featuring players dunking on someone else, most of them with their crotch in the guy’s face. One of the ads has the guy getting dunked on grabbing the ass of the guy making the big play with the caption “Isn’t That Cute.” To me, that image is as much pro-gay as the other is anti-gay.
Another crotch-to-the-face ad has the caption “Say Hello”: Hardly homophobic.
Internet reaction has been as diverse as you might expect. Towleroad’s editor Andy Towle calls it homophobic, with some of his readers agreeing, but most disagreeing:
– I don't find this homophobic in the least.- I don't understand b-ball(and that has nothing to do with my gayness, STAN),but "that ain't right" part is feeding into the fear that "straight" men have with each other's crotches, regardless of what the "rules" of basketball are. Period! Homophobic? By definition, yes!!
– This has nothing to do with being homophobic. If someone got dunked on like that it just "wouldn't be right".

While most of his commenters disagreed with him as well, Joe. My. God. had a similar reaction to Towle:
"Nike is playing on the inherent homophobia of straight athletes, men who must continually compensate for their sweaty physical contact with other males by simultaneously bleating about their heterosexuality at the same time they accuse each other of secretly enjoying all that manly man-touching."
Henry Abbott of ESPN also found issue with the ad, while almost all of his commenters, again, disagreed with him: "I can't wait to live in a world where this ad would not be commonly interpreted as homophobic, but I'm not sure I do live there now. And in that setting, I guess this counts as ethically sloppy in my book."
Interestingly, this pattern seems to repeat itself on lots of blogs and sites: The writer has a problem with the ad and the commenters ask the writer what stick is up his butt (pun intended).
Personally, I don’t find it homophobic, homoerotic, pro-gay or anti-gay. It’s an aspect of sports of THE most embarrassing type, not because of the crotch in the face but because of the dunk. There are few, if any, plays in all of sports that are more definitive than a slam dunk. A “Pick 6” in football comes close, but I’d still put a big dunk over it as far as humiliating moments in sports are concerned.
You hear people complain about being taken “out of context” all the time. This is a great example. Sure, looking at the one ad of the guy with another guy’s crotch in his face with the “That Ain’t Right” caption, I can see the reaction. You have to wonder, for just that ad, why they’d choose that image. Why that one moment of a dunk? Why that one caption? But when you it’s a series of six images and six captions, with at least one of them seemingly being on its face gay-friendly (“Isn’t That Cute”), the cries of homophobia lose a little luster with me.
You may ask, well why is the picture cropped to feature the crotch in the face? It’s not; It’s cut to feature the shoes and the guy who’s getting dunked on. I thought for a while on how else you could cut the picture to feature both of those elements, and I couldn’t think of another way.
Gawker’s title for their blog entry on this was “Does Nike hate gays or do gays hate basketball?” I can see where they’re going with that one. It seems from reading LOTS of blogs and comments on this issue that basketball players and die-hard fans totally get the ad campaign; those who haven’t played basketball and don’t watch a lot of basketball seem to be more of a mixed bag on this one.

Who's right? At the end of the day, Nike will likely be making a lot more money because of this controversy, so I guess they're the big winners.

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