Thursday, July 30, 2009

Homophobic "Slip?": The Sports World Never Ceases to Surprise Me

Today Hawaii's highest paid state employee exemplified the darker side of sports, another athletic leader casually using homophobic hate speech. First off, yes, a coach is the highest paid state employee in Hawaii. Those familiar with big time college football would know that it's not atypical for a head football coach to hold that distinction. But back to the issue at hand...

At a Western Athletic Conference press conference today, University of Hawaii head football coach Greg McMackin attempted to insult the Notre Dame football team via use of a homophobic slur. From a PDF'd transcript of his statements, available HERE (original language left unedited):

He had his guys. "We do something special at Notre Dame," he said, and they get up and they do this little cheer, like this (clap), you know, this little faggot dance. And you remember, Jason and Stephen, so my guys were looking at me. They’re all looking at me trying not to laugh. So I gave them the shaka. Don’t write that "faggot" down. I was misquoted.


So, anyway, just please. Last year, you covered for me as far as (inadvertently mentioning a) recruit. Cover for me. Go ahead. Say "faggot dance." No, please cover for me on that, too. Right, Karl (Benson)? I’ll deny it. Anything else?

To hear the full audio of his speech, click
here. Amazing, as seen in the transcript, it appears McMackin attempted to have others cover up his words and in doing so used the slur "f****t" twice more.

McMackin has since issued an apology (to Notre Dame, not to the LGBTQ community).

What's worse, the University of Hawaii athletic program has a history of institutionalizing homophobia (see HERE). In 2000, Hawaii's athletic department dropped the name "Rainbows" in order to disassociate itself with LGBTQ institutions, renaming themselves the supposedly more masculine "Hawaii Warriors." Hawaii coaches and then Athletic Director Hugh Yoshida openly discussed how the "Rainbow" mascot was a marker of confusion that associated the athletic program with gay pride, noting that as a problem. Said Yoshida of the rainbow symbol, who later apologized for these statements, "That logo really put a stigma on our program at times in regards to its part of the gay community, their flags and so forth." Still, the rainbow logo was dropped.

The other disconcerting aspect of this story is the unquestioned support society gives athletics in general. I've never been one to completely bash athletics, but to act as if sports produce nothing but positive values is absurd. Nevertheless, our citizenry incessantly glorifies athletics by spewing out the most typical cliches to defend them: "Sports teach teamwork, how to bounce back from defeat, dispute resolution, etc."

If coached and managed properly, true, sports can convey and teach those values. But as we see, sports just as often perpetuate discrimination. If McMackin casually uses hate speech to insult adversaries at a press conference, imagine the type of language and behavior that takes place behind male locker room doors nationwide, or at post-game, late night parties.

All the while, state employee's salaries/jobs are under the gun, correctional facilities are being closed, human services are in jeopardy. But when Hawaii's high school sports programs are threatened due to the economic crisis, all of a sudden the community kicks in over $400,000. I wouldn't say that generosity to sports is necessarily bad, but taken in context with the negative aspects of sports and the loss of other human services in Hawaii, one has to wonder about our values.

And back to McMackin, those players who did, as McMackin stated, a "f****t dance," destroyed his "warriors" 49-21 last year. So if he defines homosexuality with some form of weakness, what does that say about his "warriors?"

(Photo courtesy of the Honolulu Advertiser)
More video on this story from ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" available HERE.

Update as of 7/31/09:
Coach McMackin has been levied a number of punishments, including (1) a 30-day suspension without pay, (2) a salary reduction commensurate with that which other state executives are voluntarily taking due to the economic crisis; (3) inclusion in public service announcements that call to end hate speech; and (4) the portion of his salary being cut goes towards a position on the university main campus that advocates for the LGBTQ community. He has also apologized to the LGBTQ community and it appears genuine (see here).

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting comments in these stories:

    The Honolulu Advertiser closed its comments section on the story.