Monthly Archives: May 2011

Joakim Noah Has A Lesson To Teach, But Will People Learn?

Apparently Chicago Power Forward/Center Joakim Noah learned a hell of a lot from Kobe Bryant’s anti-gay outburst last month. Will anyone else?

On Sunday, just a few weeks after Kobe Bryant was fined for using the word “faggot” during an NBA game, Noah was caught on camera using the same word. Some of us, myself included, were ready for a similar repeat of Bryant’s defiant attitude when he was disciplined.

Speaking only for myself, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Noah’s reaction couldn’t have been more different than Bryant’s. Here he is after Sunday’s game when reporters told him about the video that was already online.

Noah continued:

“The fan said something that was disrespectful towards me and I went back at him,” Noah said.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not like that. I’m an open-minded guy. I said the wrong thing and I’m going to pay the consequences – deal with the consequences – like a man.”

On Monday, Noah spoke about the incident as word of his $50,000 fine came down from the NBA front office.

Probably his most important and insightful comments come from his interview with out gay sportswriter Kevin Arnovitz for ESPN:

Noah: You know, all my best friends live downtown in New York City. I was made in Soho. Sometimes, when you’re at this level you don’t realize the consequences or how much a word can bother people. My mom’s best friend was gay. We used to call him “Mom.” So I’m disappointed because that’s not me. I didn’t mean any harm to anybody. I don’t want anyone to feel disrespected by what I said, and I understand that’s what’s going to happen.

And you know what? I believe Noah’s being sincere. I believe that he’s genuinely shaken by his mistake. He’s acting and reacting with the attitude and grace of someone who knows he screwed up.

What Noah’s been doing since Sunday night is exactly what it should look like every time this happens. He did something stupid, and when it was brought to light, he offered a sincere apology and said he’d accept the consequences without reservation.

ESPN caught up with recently-out Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts for his reaction to the incident. Welts will become increasingly important as the conversation about homophobia in sports continues, a role that he seems to understand.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s another teachable moment,” Welts told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher. “It should generate more intelligent dialogue. We’ve been afraid to talk about it and we’re not afraid to talk about it anymore. I’m proud that the NBA has taken the approach that it has.

“I had the pleasure of having dinner with Noah in the run-up to the draft when he came into the league and I found him to be a very humble, very kind, genuine human being. So I do have this personal connection with him and because of that I feel a little sorry for him that he finds himself in this situation. … The intention of the words were to sting, but there has to be understanding that the words carry a weight beyond that.”

Others, though, still aren’t ready to accept that using the word “faggot” isn’t okay.

Take, for example, Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen. He was fined and ordered to undergo “sensitivity training” (Do we still call it that?) for a similar incident in 2006. From the Chicago Sun Times:

“That’s not a good word in this country,” he said, referring to the homosexual slur Noah directed at a fan attending the Bulls-Heat game Sunday in Miami. “Even though everybody says it, it’s not a good word.”

“Unfortunately, that happens to athletes and to people .  .  . to us,” Guillen said. “I bet you a lot of people say that out on the street, and they don’t get in trouble. I went through it. It’s a very painful moment because sometimes you regret what you say.

“But in the meanwhile, nobody took a look at why he said it. He’s not going to say that because he’s crazy. Maybe some guy was playing with him and made him mad. And the first thing that comes to your mind is that word, even if you don’t want to.  .  .

“It’s a mistake you regret. You have to be careful what you do and what you say when you’re an athlete and you’re a public figure. .  .  . That’s the part I don’t like about being a public figure, that people take advantage of that. .  .  . And we’re the ones that get punished, paying fines, getting embarrassed and being in front of the TV saying, ‘I apologize to people, I don’t mean it, I’m sorry.’ Those people put us on the spot to say what we say. Unfortunately, that happened.”

Or Mike Tokito of The Oregonian:

But is it also possible that there were extenuating circumstances that led to Noah saying what he did? Indications from his teammates are that the fan was a particularly onerous heckler.

. . . It’s such a fine line — we love it when players compete with the kind of passion Noah displays, and yet they’re supposed to keep it under control under certain circumstances.

Or Samantha Steele, a FOX reporter who took to twitter Monday night to ask:

Can someone please clarify these Kobe/J Noah fines.. What is the rule? You can’t say anything offensive? Offensive to whom?

. . . then played Glenn Beck’s “I’m asking questions!!!” game.

And there’s the thing. People like Joakim Noah? They get it. They might mess up need to be reminded of their better nature from time to time, but they get it.

Others like Guillen, Tokito, and Steele just don’t, and they’re the ones we really have to be worried about. Because it’s not PC run amuck, it’s not a fine line, and it’s not confusing. AT ALL.

Are they willing to learn? I fear that they’re not.

Then again, I was wrong about Joakim Noah. Maybe I’ll be wrong again.

WATCH: Chicago Bull Joakim Noah Pulls a Kobe

Apparently Chicago Power Forward/Center Joakim Noah learned absolutely nothing from Kobe Bryant’s anti-gay outburst last month.

Transcribing for those who can’t read lips: Apparently responding to someone in the stands, Joakim Noah shouts “Fuck you, faggot!”

Joakim Noah has clearly decided to reject the message of the new GLSEN/NBA/Ad Council partnership against homophobic language, including this PSA released less than two weeks ago.

Joakim Noah’s use of the slur comes just a week after Phoenix Suns President Rick Wells came out and six days after Charles Barkley became incensed that anyone would dare suggest that homophobia is rampant in professional sports.

My question at this point is whether NBA Commissioner Bill Sterns will fine Noah as he did Bryant or increase the punishment to make it clear that NBA players and staff had best get on board for the systemic change that he seems to be indicating is his goal.

One thing’s for sure: This faggot will be watching with interest to see what happens next.

Bryan Fischer & Bradlee Dean: WOW, That’s A Lot Of Evil!

Story One: Outrage in Minnesota’s House of Representatives, as You Can Run But You Cannot Hide's Bradlee Dean gives a rambling, anti-Obama opening prayer in the House. Dean is well-known for his view that gay men are pedophiles and should be imprisoned for life or castrated and hanged as punishment for being gay, and was for some reason invited by Republican leaders to give the opening prayer the very day the Minnesota House was set to debate and vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment.

That would have been fine, of course, but for the fact that Dean used his time at the podium to declare that President Obama isn’t a Christian, which is apparently worse than saying you should kill gay people.

Story Two: The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer is being a hateful dick again, this time saying that gays are Nazis.

I’d list a bunch of other insane and beyond-offensive things Bryan Fischer has said and done over the last few years on behalf of this hate group, but Jeremy of Good As You has done a fabulous job with his own detailed list.

Can you imagine what would happen if you got Bradlee Dean and Bryan Fischer together? Well, imagine no more, because it happened in February when Dean hosted Fischer for an extended segment of his Sons of Liberty (yes, really) radio show. I bet you can’t guess how this will turn out!

[box type=”note”]edit 10/08/11: The video that was embedded above seems to have been deleted. Weird, since it was from Bradlee Dean’s group. No matter — the interview is still out there through other outlets. Re-embedded below.[/box]

I must admit, it surprised me how taken aback people were of Fischer’s Nazi comparison last week. I mean, this clip is just four months old, and it’s clearly not the first time Fischer made that argument. I suppose this is just the first time people have been paying attention.

Also, Fischer’s Nazi nonsense is taken just about verbatim from Scott Lively’s “Gays are behind the Holocaust” campaign that has wreaked such havoc in Uganda. If I were Lively, I’d sue for plagiarism, even if Fischer did cite him.

Finally, getting back to Bradlee Dean, I’m going to have to agree with the always awesome Dave Holmes on this one.

How’s about we don’t put microphones in front of pastors in track suits? Just as a general rule.

High School Principal Karlton Johnson Is Why Some LGBT Kids Kill Themselves

South Florida Times has the latest case of discrimination against LGBT kids, followed by outing them to their parents.

The South Florida Times is not identifying the students, who are an interracial couple, one a junior, the other a senior. Both have good grades and one is an honor student.

The two were holding hands while walking to class on May 3 at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. School Principal Karlton Johnson confronted and took them to his office.

“We were walking to class when he rolled up on his golf cart and said, ‘Didn’t I tell you two to stop doing do that?’ and then he took us to his office,” one of the girls told South Florida Times. “He gave us a speech and then separated us before calling our parents, which was wrong. My mother already knew but my friend’s mom didn’t know she is into girls.”

You should definitely read the rest for much more. Surprising no one, the school board thinks what Principal Karlton Johnson did was just great. North Area Superintendent Sharon Airaghi defended his abuse in a letter to the girls.

But I think the last paragraph I quoted is the most important point and the most damaging to these girls, and to other students at Blanch Ely High. Frankly, this is one big reason projects like It Gets Better and I’m From Driftwood exist, to undo the damage done to our children and youth by bigots like Principal Karlton Johnson before they attempt or complete suicide.

Principal Karlton Johnson
Principal Karlton Johnson

By the way, Principal Karlton Johnson’s outing these girls to their parents is unfortunately not without precedent. In August 2008 I posted about a similar story in Holmes County, Florida, where a principal punished a lesbian student and then outed her to her parents.

The court decided that the principal did wrong in Holmes County. Here’s hoping they get a chance to say the same thing about this case in Pompano Beach.

Contact information below is for non-cussing-them-out messages:

Principal Karlton Johnson:
   email karlton.johnson@browardschools.com
   phone (754) 322-0950

North Area Superintendent Sharon Airaghi:
   email sharon.airaghi@browardschools.com (that’s a guess)
   phone (754) 321- 3400

Superintendent of Schools James F. Notter:
   email supt_notter@browardschools.com
   phone (754) 321-2600

Email the School Board:
   email schoolboard@browardschools.com

A One Image Response To Schwarzenegger’s Hypocrisy

You’ve probably heard by now that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) admitted on Tuesday to an affair with an employee that resulted in a now-ten-year-old child. This revelation only comes after leaving politics when it can’t hurt his livelihood and after the employee retired earlier this year.

Oh, and after vetoing marriage equality laws in California twice. TWICE.

All day I’ve been trying to figure out how to best respond to this most recent Family Values Lying Sack Of Crap with an R behind his name who couldn’t keep his religious (Catholic, by the way) marriage vows but decided that thousands of Californians shouldn’t even have the right to make civil vows at all.

TWICE.

My first instinct was to swear a lot, but tonight I saw this picture on my facebook wall, and it does a better job than my ranting ever could.

Thank you, Courtney.
Thank you, Courtney.

(But I do reserve the right to swear a lot at a later date.)

First Rick Welts, Then Don Lemon: A Big Day For Coming Out

Sunday was a huge day for coming out, as two high-profile movers and shakers took the big step. There’s lots to look at here, so let’s dive right in.

First there’s Rick Welts, president of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, came out at age 58 after decades in the closet.

Rick Welts, Phoenix Suns president
Rick Welts
President, Phoenix Suns
Rick Welts always knew.

[…] Late one night, he walked two miles to slip a long confessional letter under the door of a young minister at his family’s church, but the well-intentioned minister could not help him. So he resigned himself to adapt, in private.

[…] Although he had opened up to his supportive parents and to his younger, only sibling, Nancy, Mr. Welts feared that if he made his homosexuality public, it would impede his rising sports career.

“It wasn’t talked about,” he said. “It wasn’t a comfortable subject. And it wasn’t my imagination. I was there.”

But this privacy came at great cost. In March 1994, his longtime partner, Arnie, died from complications related to AIDS, and Mr. Welts compartmentalized his grief, taking only a day or two off from work. His secretary explained to others that a good friend of his had died. Although she and Arnie had talked many times over the years, she and her boss had never discussed who, exactly, Arnie was.

For weeks, Mr. Welts walked around the office, numb, unable to mourn his partner fully, or to share the anxiety of the weeklong wait for the results of an H.I.V. test, which came back negative.

Much, much more to that story, including the fact that it was only one day after Welts told NBA commissioner Bill Sterns that he was coming out publicly that Kobe Bryant famously called a referee a “fucking faggot.”

Oops.

Next there’s CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon, whose story broke about twenty minutes after I thought I had finished this post. This one will surely get more attention, in large part because his face is better known. Again, the New York Times had the story.

CNN Weekend Anchor Don Lemon
Don Lemon
CNN Weekend Anchor
Mr. Lemon has not made a secret of his sexual orientation in his work life; many of his CNN co-workers and managers have long been aware that he is gay. But he still acknowledged that going public in his book carries certain risks.

“I’m scared,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m talking about something that people might shun me for, ostracize me for.”

Even beyond whatever effect his revelation might have on his television career, Mr. Lemon said he recognized this step carried special risk for him as a black man.

“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” he said. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.” He said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women.

More of Don Lemon’s story will be in his forthcoming book Transparent and this Tuesday in a “lengthy” interview with Michelangelo Signiorile.

Again, this was such a big day, one that I don’t think we quite understand the importance of yet. By coming out so publicly, both of these men are making a huge impact: Rick Welts because he’s such a well-respected executive in the men’s team sports industry, and Don Lemon because he’s African American and such a public figure.

Both seem to understand the weight of what they’re doing; in their articles, they each spoke of a desire to stand up for and stand with LGBT youth.

As Don Lemon said, “I think if I had seen more people like me who are out and proud, it wouldn’t have taken me 45 years to say it.”

Following FOX’s Racist Reaction, Common Performs At The White House

Speaking of racism, Jon Stewart took to The Daily Show to call out FOX for their latest manufactured controversy, this time after First Lady Michelle Obama invited famous poet Common to perform at the White House’s annual Poetry Slam last week.

FOX’s reaction was…let’s just say it was transparently racist.

(I don’t know why Comedy Central split the segment in two, but watch both parts. Because I said so, that’s why.)

Standing ovation for Jon Stewart, folks. Once again he’s right on the money.

Of course, the show did go on and Common did perform at the White House. Here’s a quick snippet of Common’s performance. It isn’t included in the White House video because he sampled a copyrighted work, but this will have to do until someone releases the whole thing.

UPDATE 5/15: A few minutes ago, Common posted a fuller (but still not complete) version of his performance that includes some behind the scenes moments and a word from back in his hotel room after the Poetry Slam. Enjoy!

(Do watch the official video. There are some damn fine performances in there. I adored Jill Scott' selections.)

Racism, Baratunde Thurston, and My White Privilege

In late April, President Obama posted his long-form birth certificate, a move in large part due to Birther Donald Trump’s recent stoking of the issue. I’ve spent the last two weeks or so trying to unpack my reaction to it and more specifically, what that reaction says about me as a white person.

When the news broke on April 27, I groaned and cussed a few times because the whole Birther thing is so stupid and plainly racist. If you were following me on the twitter machine, you saw a little frustration, then a spate of retweeted jokes about it.

Then I went on with my day and didn’t really give it much thought. I certainly didn’t consider how it affected me personally.

That evening, I came across this video by Baratunde Thurston and started to question both my attitude and my unintended white privilege.

(If you haven’t seen them, here are President Obama’s press conference and Trump’s press conference, which led to Thurston’s video.)

As I watched that Thurston’s video for the first time, I recognized the look on his face. I’d last seen it in my own mirror last autumn when so many gay little boys and young men killed themselves, leaving me feeling like I was being punched in the gut over and over for six weeks.

I remember seeing my LGBT friends experience the same feelings and verbalize the urgency that goes with them, but then seeing my straight friends distractedly say “That’s so sad,” shrug it off, and then talk about a LOLCAT.

After processing the resulting anger over the situation, I finally gained a grudging understanding that my straight and cis-gender friends had the privilege of not being so personally affected by the deaths. They were able to put the deaths in the category of “wrong things that happen” and set them aside, while we were forced to know them as “wrong things that happen to us.”

Much to my disappointed surprise, I found myself in the position of my straight friends on April 27, as my African American friends were all over facebook and twitter in obvious pain and reasonable rage over the Birther nonsense while I got to make a joke of it.

My point here is part mea culpa and part call to mindfulness. If you’re in a majority group, be mindful of the inequities that others are living with that you haven’t even considered.

And then…do your best to shed your privilege.

In Landmark Vote, Presbyterian Church Approves Gay Ministers

Just received this wonderful news from More Light Presbyterians:

In Minneapolis, Minn., May 10, 2011, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) crossed an historic threshold as Presbyterians in the Twin Cities area voted to eliminate all official barriers to the ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as ministers and lay leaders in their 2.4 million member denomination. With their vote the Twin Cities Presbyterians were the 87th Presbytery (a regional governing body) to vote yes, giving the denomination the majority of votes needed to approve the landmark change.

“Passing this amendment makes clear the good news that the Presbyterian Church welcomes and values every person – because Jesus does. Its passage removes an enormous stumbling block for many who would otherwise be drawn to following Jesus,” said the Rev. Mary Lynn Tobin, Co-Moderator, Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

presbyterian-crossPCUSA’s acceptance of LGBT ministers is another major step for mainline protestant denominations in the United States. With the passage of the Presbyterian Amendment 10-A, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ministers are now welcome to serve in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th largest mainline protestant denominations, ministering to an approximate 10.3 million members and millions more non-members. Of the six largest Protestant denominations in America, only United Methodists and American Baptists remain closed to LGBT clergy.

To quote Vice President Biden, this is a big fucking deal.

There will surely be talk of schism, just as there always is every time a denomination opens its doors wider. It usually fizzles out pretty quickly, but if congregations leave, so be it. I’ve long said that it’s better to have a smaller righteous church than a larger church that teaches against the basic principles of God.

It Gets Better: ‘If You’re Gay Old People, You Can Get Away With A Lot’

It Gets Better: Harry And Wayne

I just realized that I haven’t written a single post about the It Gets Better Project. Isn’t that ridiculous? Especially now that the It Gets Better book is available, there’s just no excuse for it.

This is one of the first IGB videos I saw when the project started last October, and it’s still one of my favorites. Harry and Wayne put together a great piece on the common hardships so many LGBT people face and gave some practical tips for surviving such a difficult time.

I’ve always had an affinity for older people. Maybe that’s one reason I like this couple so much.

Aren’t they the best?