Editor’s Note: This story was updated on April 19, 2021, to include reaction from Athlete Ally.
ORIGINAL STORY, April 7, 2021: The big news in mainstream sports about Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant is that he returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing 23 games with a hamstring injury when the Nets hosted the New Orleans Pelicans and defeated them in a rout, 139-111.
But the LGBTQ sports news regarding his direct messages to actor, and sometimes internet provocateur, Michael Rapaport, laced with homophobic put downs, still lingers. With Durant returning to action, it appears that the $50,000 levied on the longtime, outspoken LGBTQ ally by the National Basketball Association will be the only sanction against him.
And for the most part, the straight media has yawned.
In contrast, that fine has been criticized by voices within the LGBTQ community, including here at Outsports. Our Cyd Zeigler and Outsports deputy managing editor Alex Reimer strongly criticized the handling of the situation by the league and the teams in opinion pieces published after news of the feud first came to light.
Kevin Durant used the most graphic homophobic language I've ever seen from a professional athlete.— Cyd Zeigler (@CydZeigler) April 4, 2021
The NBA and Brooklyn Nets want you to ignore it.
We should all be asking questions about it.https://t.co/Zc7kOExkZt
“Fines for someone like Durant are truly meaningless,” Zeigler wrote. “He will literally more than pay off this fine halfway through the first quarter of his next game.”
Reimer said Durant’s choice of words “is hard to sidestep, because of the vile language Durant used. It was misogynist, threatening and homophobic. He can say he was joking, but that’s the problem.”
Some voices across the media landscape echoed those thoughts. ESPN reporter Israel Gutierrez, himself openly gay, noted on an appearance on ESPN’s Spain and Fitz podcast April 1: “If a young person struggling with his sexual identity hears these words used at that level of hatred and says ‘Wow, if you are using these words to get across this level of hate, there must be something wrong with me,’ that is just death by a million paper cuts. Clearly it affects people.”
Outsports reached out to representatives of the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA in regard to further comment or further probable sanctions. Neither responded as of press time.
LGBTQ advocacy groups contacted by Outsports responded critically:
“Athlete Ally is disturbed by the homophobic language used by NBA player Kevin Durant, which reflect an overarching issue of problematic language perpetuating a toxic culture within sport,” said the organization in a statement provided to Outsports through a spokesperson. “We have seen Durant act in allyship with the LGBTQ+ community in the past, and hope to see him take meaningful steps to learning about the impact homophobic slurs have on LGBTQ+ players and fans. Athlete Ally will continue to work with the NBA to build inclusive environments and culture throughout the league.”
“It is the responsibility of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ensure that players and teams in the League do not discriminate against anybody – including members of the LGBTQ community. It is also the responsibility of the Brooklyn Nets to sanction superstar Kevin Durant for his vile homophobic comments in a more severe nature than $50,000,” Helen Carroll, LGBTQ Sports Consultant for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told Outsports. “It is a shame that at a time when we are seeing renewed attacks against LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender youth, in statehouses all around the country, there has been near silence on Durant’s hateful and hurtful words from a league that purports to support our community.”
Across social media there is a clear line of contention. Most straight fans look critically at Rapaport for having taken a private beef public, rather than at Durant’s response. Many LGBTQ fans have focused on the vitriol in Durant’s response to Rapaport and to the apology Durant made in his initial public comments on the incident.
One LGBTQ voice, former pro hockey player Brock McGillis, used his Twitter to clearly define the shortcomings of the response of Durant and the league, and what the consequences of a tepid response are.
Kevin Durant cares that we saw his homophobia and misogyny, not that he said it. This isn’t okay. He says he wants to move past it and play ball. Where’s the atonement— Brock McGillis (@brock_mcgillis) April 2, 2021
Kevin your words influence millions. These words will impact lgbtq+ and women’s lives. https://t.co/f08tzz2SqS
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