Anthony Edwards — NBA star for the Minnesota Timberwolves — used anti-gay language to demean a group of men, recorded himself doing it, and then posted it online so hundreds of thousands of people would see him do it.
Will the NBA take action against such clear-cut homophobic language?
According the Chris Hine of the Star Tribune, the league is reviewing the video that Edwards recorded and posted, showing himself calling a group of men “queer-ass.”
While some geniuses on social media are pointing to “Queer Eye” and other uses of the word “queer” by the LGBT community to excuse the behavior, that’s like saying everyone can now call people “The N Word” because some black football players and rappers call each other that word.
The claim is ludicrous on its face — Context determines the meaning of the word, and in the context of Edwards’ use, it is clearly a slur.
For their part, so far the Minnesota Timberwolves have tried to publicly sweep the episode under the rug. The club’s president of basketball operations released an embarrassingly substance-free statement, failing to even acknowledge the LGBT community.
This is similar to how almost every other NBA team — including the Timberwolves — handled the discovery of dozens of homophobic and anti-gay old tweets from current players (though, it’s important to note the Philadelphia 76ers and forward Paul Reed took these seriously).
The NBA has a history of taking action against athletes who use this kind of language. Kobe Bryant famously received a $100,000 fine when he called a referee a gay slur in a game. Weeks later the league fined Jaokim Noah $50,000 for calling a fan a gay slur.
Athletes have also been punished when using this language away from the court. Kevin Durant had to pay $50,000 in fines, and Nikola Jokic was slapped with a $25,000 for use of language in a post-game interview.
Now the NBA faces a credibility issue. The league has been out front various times, expressing its support for the LGBT community, creating Pride shirts for every team, appearing in Pride parades, etc....
Yet the language athletes use is where the rubber hits the court.
Waving Pride flags is absolutely meaningless if athletes use this kind of language and face no discipline. It’s the league saying, “Don’t worry guys, all these rainbow flags we’re waving give us cover — Do what you want.”
The LGBT community is now watching to see what the NBA does.
“I think consistency always matters,” said Anthony Nicodemo. He is a gay high school basketball coach and athletic director, and a board member with the Sports Equality Foundation. “If a league has disciplined an athlete for the same behavior, then yes he should be disciplined.
The NBA, as well as the players union, are on the clock. Will the league take appropriate action, and will the union accept what should at the very least be a fine?
As the NBA season approaches, their response to this will speak volumes.