is part and parcel of male professional sports. Gay epithets are so pervasive
among players that many players are sadly totally unaware of the weight and
meaning of the terms.
Homophobia can be addressed through sports
have significance to the way that’s being interpreted right now,” Toronto Blue
Jays shortstop, Yunel Escobar, stated through a
Spanish interpreter. “That’s not the significance that I put into it. That’s a
word used often within teams. It’s a word without meaning, the way we use it.”
phrase “TU ERE MARICON” (sic) written in his eye-black, the phrase can be
loosely translated as “You are a faggot” or “You’re a weak girl.”
is now suspended for three games for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic
slur written in Spanish during a game against the Boston Red Sox on September
native of Cuba,
contests that the phrase is taken out of context because, used in his culture,
it is not intended to be offensive; it’s merely used as banter in their
friends who are gay. The person who decorates my house is gay,
the person who cuts my hair is gay. I have various friends who are gay.
Honestly, they haven’t felt as offended about this. They have just a different
understanding in the Latin community of this word,” Escobar stated, defending himself to the media.
a representation of culture and if a culture is unaware of or anesthetized to
the destructive use of homophobic epithets, it re-inscribes and perpetuates
ideas and assumptions about race, gender identity and sexual orientation.
Consequently, these ideas and assumptions are transmitted from field houses to
playing courts. And unfortunately, even accepted or explained away among some
derogatory, but it’s not necessarily homophobic,” said Maria Cristina Cuervo, a professor of Spanish at the University of Toronto.
Professor Cuervo agrees that the phrase is insulting,
she doesn’t grasp, however, that if the phrase “TU ERE MARICON” goes unchecked
or is not challenged, it allows people within their culture to become
unconscious and numb to the use and abuse of the power and currency of this
homophobic epithet - and the power it still has to thwart the daily struggles
of many of us to ameliorate LGBTQ relations.
Part of the
problem contributing to the unconscious insensitivity to the phrase is the
cultural construction of masculinity. Hyper-masculinity
in professional male sports cultures not only exploits women, but also
unabashedly denigrates and goes after lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
queer (LGBTQ) people. And they care little about its deleterious effects on all
children - straight and gay.
sports programs are a
particular challenge when attempting to make schools, playgrounds, and locker
rooms safe for our LGBTQ children.
athletes must constantly monitor how they are being perceived by teammates,
coaches, endorsers and the media in order to avoid suspicion. They are expected
to maintain a public silence and decorum so that their identity does not
tarnish the rest of the team.
also provide innumerable opportunities to teach valuable life lessons and can
be a powerful influence in addressing myriad social issues. And eliminating
homophobia can be one of them.
aggressive posturing and repudiation of LGBTQ people with gay slurs allows
homophobic athletes to feel safe in the locker room by maintaining the myth
that all the guys gathered on their team are heterosexual, and sexual
attraction among them just does not exist.
allows men like Escobar to enjoy the homo-social setting of the male locker
room that creates male-bonding - and the physical and emotional intimacy that
goes on among them displayed as slaps on the buttocks, hugging, and kissing on
the cheeks in a homoerotic context - while such behavior outside of the locker
would easily be labeled as gay.
in professional male sports cultures unabashedly denigrates and goes
after lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people
In his book, Man in the Middle, John Amaechi, former NBAer who came out in 2007 after retirement, states, “The
NBA locker room was the most flamboyant place I’ve ever been. Guys flaunted
their perfect bodies. They bragged about sexual exploits. They primped in front
of the mirror, applying cologne and hair gel by the bucketful. They tried on
each other’s $10,000 suits, admired each other’s rings and necklaces. It was an
intense camaraderie that felt completely natural to them.”
society awards celebrity status to professional athletes and their popularity
has reached unprecedented levels; their influences go far beyond the court and
So, do these
athletes, like Escobar, who is from a different sports culture, have a
responsibility to American fans?
addressed through sports when Jackie Robinson became the first black Major
League Baseball player in 1947, and in 2007s landmark
Super Bowl with its two African American coaches. And so, too, homophobia can
be addressed through sports.
vitriol, sadly, hurts more than just his team and career endorsements. It hurts
the hundreds of young LGBTQ sports enthusiasts and athletes around the world
who revere him.
Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the
African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian
and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of
Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia
University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently
named to MSNBC’s list of 10
Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let
Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks
for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact the Rev.