UPDATE: Coach Russell Turner has issued an ‘apology’ without referencing homophobia, sexism, the LGBTQ community or outlining any steps he’ll take to better understand these issues. Read about that here.
UC-Irvine men’s basketball coach Russell Turner resorted to homophobia and sexism in his premeditated plan to taunt a teenager on the Univ. of Oregon basketball team ahead of his team’s second-round NCAA tournament game.
Throughout the game, Turner referred to Oregon Ducks forward Louis King as “Queen” when yelling out to his team. Turner admitted this in a post-game interview (which you can watch here), even laughing about his game plan to taunt the opposing player.
“I was saying double-team queen to try to see if I could irritate him,” Turner told reporters. “And I did. And I kept talking to my team about what we wanted to do. We were calling him queen because I knew it might irritate him.”
Oregon crushed UC-Irvine, 73-54.
While Turner was behaving like a 14-year-old in taunting a teenager with his homophobia, he is actually 48.
Turner offered some nonsense about how it had to do with King being sooooo important to his team that it was like he was the queen in a game of chess.
Of course, that’s a bunch of bull trying to rationalize his indefensible behavior. He knew that resorting to calling a male player “queen” would rely on tired homophobic and sexist tropes in sports and, as he intended, in turn taunt his opponent.
Make no mistake about it, this is outright homophobia and sexism on the part of Turner. While some actions are dismissed as “heat of the moment,” Turner clearly came into the game with a plan to use notions of femininity to taunt — yes, taunt — a teenager on the opposing team. When he saw that his plan might be working, he (as he admitted in his post-game presser) continued his sophomoric behavior.
That wasn’t lost on openly gay basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo, who tweeted about Turner’s behavior:
As an openly gay coach and advocate I have to wonder what @coachrussturner is thinking here. Attacking a player's masculinity is unacceptable. As leaders, we are supposed to know better. You owe Louis King and the LGBT community an apology. @outsports https://t.co/KUxkWAYN29— Anthony Nicodemo ️ (@coachNicodemo) March 25, 2019
I would go a step further, asking the UC-Irvine athletics department and the school’s administration how it will respond to one of their coaches resorting to sexism and homophobia to taunt a teenager.
None of this was lost on Jemele Hill either:
I covered Tom Izzo for 6 years and thought much of the criticism was unwarranted. THIS, however, is wild unacceptable. I’ve talked repeatedly about how coaches often resort to language that is anti-woman or homophobic to make a point. ain’t it, Chief. https://t.co/74bDZPmnlB— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) March 25, 2019
Nicodemo also shared his concern for the effect Turner’s words have any any athlete on his team who may be gay, bi or queer.
“As a leader you are expected to act with a certain level of integrity,” Nicodemo said. “To taunt a kid with the word ‘queen’ is an epic failure. Imagine the closeted kid on the UC-Irvine basketball team having to be part of that. Coach Turner must be better.”