National Basketball Association
Blacks must do more to promote respect
National Basketball Association

Blacks must do more to promote respect

Published May. 30, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

I’m jealous of gay people.

That’s not a joke. I’m not trying to be flippant.

I’m legitimately jealous.

To their credit, gay people are using the sports world and celebrity athletes the way we, African-Americans, used to. They’re using sports as a tool to promote tolerance, respect and understanding.


Good for them. I’m jealous.

Someone in the gay community deserves an ESPY Award. He or she orchestrated a plan to turn the month of May into the month of Gay.

The president and CEO of the Suns, Rick Welts, came out of the closet. A former Villanova power forward, Will Sheridan, shared his not-so-secret gay life with ESPN reporter Dana O’Neil. Hockey star Sean Avery and NBA star Steve Nash announced their support of gay marriage. Charles Barkley proclaimed on Mike Wise’s radio show that being gay isn’t and wouldn’t be a big deal on a basketball team.

And the biggest storyline from the magnificent end to the NBA season — after LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki redefining and elevating their legacies — has been the debate over gay slurs. David Stern fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 for calling a ref a "f----t." Stern then hit Joakim Noah with a $50,000 fine for dropping a similar F-bomb on a belligerent fan. On the flip side, Phoenix Suns players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley have been starring in a popular PSA asking people to not use the word "gay" as a pejorative.

This is courageous stuff. Welts, Sheridan, Avery, Nash, Hill, Dudley, Stern and even Bryant and Noah (who both quickly realized the error of their ways and made heartfelt apologies) should all be applauded. They took considerable risks in using their platforms to champion positive change and discourse.

Last week, I talked extensively with Grant Hill about the backlash he received for participating in the PSA. His Twitter feed has been jammed with homophobia and slurs, much of it from the African-American male community.

"It’s been disappointing," he said of a segment of the feedback. "I’m glad I participated. I did it before Rick (Welts) made his announcement. I had no idea. I’ve used those words in the last year or two. I can’t say that I haven’t. But being in the PSA is a way of holding myself accountable. Words have meaning."

Yes they do. And that’s why I’m jealous.

Gay people have enough common sense and self-respect to fight against damaging, dehumanizing slurs.

We don’t, black people.

You are 100 times more likely to hear the N-word tossed around on a basketball court or football field than any gay slur.

Kemba Walker, who is black, won a national championship in April and dropped a "damn n----a" on Jim Nantz’s live CBS microphone as he prepared to be interviewed. America laughed. Nantz never batted an eyebrow. There was no controversy.

We accept it. Worse, we expect it. Our self-hate and disrespect are cultural benchmarks.

I’m not distancing myself from the problem. I freely admit I’m part of the problem. I’ve battled the N-word for at least a decade. It’s at the crux of my love-hate relationship with hip hop music. I honestly believe rappers are paid by the N-word.

But I can’t pin this all on Kanye, Jay-Z, Snoop, etc. I get why rappers and comedians use the word. They do it for the same reason 19th-century white entertainers dressed in blackface and performed minstrel shows. Black buffoonery has always been an American moneymaker. Katt Williams thinks he’s some kind of innovator turning a buck off n---a jokes. Hardly. Kanye thinks he’s clever baiting 20,000 white kids at a concert to shout "but she ain’t messing with no broke n---as." LOL.

What’s sad is the rest of us can’t see we’ve been sold out.

One of my best friends from college — an educated, successful, deeply religious, married father — told me I was uppity because I was trying not to use the N-word and asked him to avoid the word in my presence.

What’s sad is we’ve given up on the fight for respect. We think respect for President Obama is respect for all of us. Child, please.

Again, I support and applaud the courage displayed by Grant Hill, Charles Barkley, Jared Dudley and, to a lesser degree, Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah.

But why aren’t black athletes using their influence and platforms to uplift black folks? Our thinking needs to be challenged.

I want a PSA saying the N-word isn’t cool or appropriate. I want a PSA from LeBron James telling black kids excelling in academics and learning to speak proper English are not ways to sell out your race. I want a PSA from Ray Lewis explaining that baby-mama and baby-daddy cultures are poisons helping keep black kids locked in poverty and incarceration.

Gay people understand the power and influence of black athletes better than African-Americans do.


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