Tag Archives: basketball

The Clippers: An Opportunity for Healing

2 May

NBA: New Orleans Hornets at Los Angeles ClippersWhile I was not particularly surprised to learn that Donald Sterling reared his racist head, I was exceedingly disappointed that we have yet more evidence of how much work still has yet to be done around race and how our nation still perpetuates the targeting and marginalizing of African Americans.

Let us hope this horrific moment from Sterling will create space for us as a country to have conversations around race and racism and that we will also  include conversations around misogyny and homophobia and what I might call the intersections of oppression. If we can have authentic and empathic conversations around race and oppression, we can also pave the way for healing.

Of course, our collective hearts go out to the Clippers and for all of the African Americans renting apartments from Sterling — for all of the lives Sterling impacted with his ignorance. Perhaps the tonic will come in the form of a new owner of the Clippers. I have heard three names thrown about and a most wonderfully creative uniting idea. I have heard that Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, and David Geffen have all expressed an interest in buying the team. Personally, I think there is some type of poetic justice in Oprah Winfrey (a black woman) and David Geffen (a white gay Jew) co-owning the team.

I am also drawn to the idea of a collective ownership. A man named Rob Wilson has started an Indiegogo campaign online to get as many as one million Clippers fans to join him in funding a bid to buy the team. He observes

Major sports teams no longer need to be in the hands of a few wealthy individuals whose values are detached from those of its fans. Technology has leveled the playing field in many industries. Now, let’s use technology to change the ownership suite… This is an opportunity put the LA Clippers in the hands of its fans, supporters and others who will not discriminate against others.

Approaching this from a social justice lens, I hope this awful incident (an incident NOT in isolation) will provide opportunities for us to unite as a nation and focus on issues of racial equity and equality. For me, issues of race are also tied to issues of misogyny, homophobia, and how we target people who are not part of the dominant culture.

CALL TO ACTION: I hope each of us will examine ways we can stand in solidarity with those people who are targeted and oppressed.

Hero of the Week Award: July 5, Tim Hardaway

5 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a real pleasure to celebrate a man who has clearly demonstrated the ability to change. Former NBA star, Tim Hardaway was infamous for his homophobia. When recently retired player John Amaechi came out in 2007, Hardaway famously noted in an interview “I hate gay people.” When asked for clarification, he seemed to use the label “homophobic” proudly.  At that point, he certainly would have earned Bigot of the Week Award.  What an absolute delight to celebrate someone who demonstrates bell hooks’ transformative experience.

The NBA did the right thing and sanctioned Hardaway, imposing financial penalties and banning him from the NBA All-Star weekend. This gave him space to consider his words and actions. Not long after, he indicated that he wanted to change his ways, telling a reporter, “I’m going to do whatever I can to correct it.”

He has lived up to that promise. Earlier this year, when Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to come out, Hardaway was among his most vocal supporters. This week, Equal Marriage Florida opened its petition to create marriage equality in the Sunshine State. For the very public kickoff of the campaign, they found a willing celebrity to be the first signer of the petition — Tim Hardaway.

Many people have ugly beliefs, say hateful things, take hurtful actions. They should be called out for their behavior. Too seldom do we see even a real apology. Even rarer is someone who truly demonstrates that they have learned from their mistakes and want to be and do better and do the necessary repair work. Thank you, Tim Hardaway, for showing that our strongest allies can be forged from the lessons learned by our former opponents.  There is a lesson for us all here.  For those that commit trespass, we must try our best to create a space for people to make mistakes, be accountable, and allow for repair work.  If I, or our culture, simply dismisses a fellow human being as just a homophobe, or just a racist, we lose the opportunity for richer deeper conversations to be had and we also lose the opportunity for targeted, or marginalized people to gain allies.

It’s a delight to have two honorable mentions this week. First, a big thank you to the Department of Homeland Security. (I never thought I’d write that!) In one of the first executive branch actions since the overturn of DOMA Section 3, DHS began issuing green cards to legally married same-sex couples. This will end decades of discrimination and estrangement and banishes one of the most visibly cruel aspects of DOMA.

Honorable mention also goes to April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a couple in Michigan who have been working to overturn that state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. They recently expanded their case to take on the Wolverine State’s marriage ban. Judge Bernard Friedman put a stay on the case in March, awaiting the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 decisions. Citing the DOMA verdict, Friedman lifted his stay, noting that the language of the decision “has provided the requisite precedential fodder for both parties to this litigation.” It’s wonderful to see so many positive results emerge from that one decision so quickly. Thank you, April and Jayne, for your courage, and best of luck on your journey to end discrimination.

LGBT History Month 2013: Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers

5 Jun

CollinsRogersWhat a difference a year makes! Last summer there were no out gay men in professional team sports. Suddenly there are two, each of whom has made a significant difference in the national conversation. Professional athletics, especially male teams, is one of the last closets to be pried open.

Former Baltimore Raven and outspoken LGBT ally Brendon Ayanbadejo indicated that at least four gay NFL players were considering coming out as a group and had talked to him about strategy. Before that could happen, NBA star Jason Collins and soccer player Robbie Rogers boldly burst the doors open.

Collins became the first non-retired, publicly out man on a professional team just a month ago. Coming out in a long interview in Sports Illustrated, he spoke eloquently about the crippling power of the closet and the desire to be accepted as a complete human being. Reactions were all over the map, but generally positive. With a couple of notable exceptions, other NBA players have been very supportive, setting the stage for more out basketball players in the near future.

Barely a week ago, Robbie Rogers broke two barriers. Signing with the LA Galaxy, he became the first out major league soccer player. The very next day, he joined his team on the field, becoming the first publicly out gay man to play a team sport. As with Collins, other than some grumbling from the usual “Family Values” groups, Rogers has seen nothing but support.

The courage of these two men does nothing to diminish the many out athletes that came before them. Tennis stars Renée Richards and Martina Navratilova were early out players. Baseball’s Glenn Burke was out to his team while still playing — to the detriment of his career. David Kopay, Billy Bean, and John Amaechi all came out not long after retiring from football, baseball, and basketball respectively. Every out voice counts!

The macho image of male team sports has contributed to the long-standing homophobia in that arena. Collins and Rogers, building on the brave men and women who preceded them, have helped change that dynamic. Let’s hope that soon there will be too many out players to list casually. Until then, every move forward must be celebrated.

Hero of the Week Award: May 3, Jason Collins

3 May
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

It isn’t often that one of the week’s biggest stories coincides with a worthy hero, but this week it was an easy match. NBA free agent Jason Collins demonstrated courage and leadership by becoming the first publicly out male athlete in one of the big four team sports.

That’s a lot of qualifiers, because although sports is still one area where being out is less prevalent, there have been many pioneers. David Kopay and Billy Bean  both came out publicly after retiring. Martina Navratilova was one of the first out athletes still playing. Glenn Burke, sadly unknown to most people today, was out to his teammates and coaches while still playing, a decision that cost him his career. Building on the work of these men and women, Collins has taken things to the next level.

Not only did he come out very publicly, he did so as a cover feature in Sports Illustrated. That speaks volumes about how things are changing and how Collins’ courage should burst open some other athletic closets soon. Somebody had to take this step, and as Collins watched his straight friends participate in Pride activities and provide public support to the LGBT community, he realized it needed to be he:

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand…

Thank you for raising your hand, Jason. Let’s hope a sea of hands rises with yours.  We need more wonderful role models in the LGBT community.

I also have to call attention to Jason’s honoring of the late Matthew Shepard.  Jason picked the number 98 for his jersey to honor Matthew Shepard.  Shepard was brutally murdered in October of 1998.

Honorable mention goes to the many people who took the time to congratulate Collins and provide him support. Hopefully this outpouring will embolden other players. Special mention goes to retired NFL player Leroy Butler. He was scheduled to provide a motivational speech at a Wisconsin church. His simple tweet of support to Collins resulted in the invitation being rescinded, costing him the $8500 speaking fee. Butler took the time to expose the church’s non-Christian behavior and reiterated his support. That’s a class act.

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