It is almost a year to the day that the famous NBA player, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call. NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the disciplinary action on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 saying the distasteful term used by Bryant should never be tolerated.
John Krolik wrote an interesting article about this incident for Pro Basketball Talk. John said:
The issue here is not Kobe; the issue is the word he used… I don’t think Kobe’s unfortunate choice of words revealed that he has a deep-seeded hatred of gay people. I do think they revealed that athletes are still comfortable tossing around a word that, like a few other very hurtful and powerful words, should not be tossed around.
Eliza Byard is the Executive Director of GLSEN. In a blog for the Huff Post, Byard wrote about this incident. She said:
A huge amount of credit goes to the NBA for partnering with us long before Kobe’s offensive and hurtful comment, just as the league deserves credit for its swift and stern response and $100,000 fine.
But the fact that slurs like this one are even a part of his lexicon demonstrate how far we still need to go to teach respect of all people, particularly those who are or are perceived to be LGBT.
We presume one of the big reasons is the tolerance — in schools and society — for language like the slur Kobe used.
Research conducted one year ago shows that gay and lesbian teens are twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression as their heterosexual counterparts, and three times more likely to report a history of suicidal thoughts. According to the It Gets Better Project, 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school. Three out of 5 said they felt unsafe because of who they are.
Until students on campus, or on teams representing their schools, feel they are protected no matter whom they are, we cannot give up the fight to stop abusive language that targets children.
According to Byard, next Friday marks the 16th anniversary of the first Day of Silence, a day sponsored by GLSEN when hundreds of thousands of students at middle schools, high schools and colleges across the country take a voluntary vow of silence to raise awareness about anti-LGBT bullying in schools and on campuses. It is a problem that has been ignored for far too long, and we too often see the dire consequences of inaction on the lives of young people.
I am writing this article for two reasons today. First, I applaud GLSEN and their mission to ensure safe schools for all students. Their goal is:
a world where every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community.
The second reason for writing this article is because of the anti-gay language and bullying that has been used by one of the contestants on Celebrity Apprentice. I feel compelled to call this young lady out. I watched a preview video of the next episode of Celebrity Apprentice and was shocked to hear gay bullying right on the show for everyone to hear.
Using anti-gay language is wrong… Always… Whether you mean for it to hurt someone or not.
For me, I find it baffling that Aubrey O’Day can call her teammates homophobic slurs and then turn around, claiming to be representing GLSEN and against bullying.
So…do we let O’Day slide by, laughing at her own gay slurs or is there a consequence for her hurtful words? Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for his distasteful words? Will anything happen to O’Day? Millions heard Kobe Bryant. I would suggest that millions would also hear O’Day. I can only hope that NBC will remove the hateful remarks from their broadcast and that GLSEN is as upset with Aubrey as they were with Kobe.
Professional sports players, singers and celebrities need to set an example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility. They all have a responsibility to educate their fans about why these words and bullying is unacceptable.
What do you think?