In a piece for the New York Times, sports journalist William C. Rhoden wonders why our society seems more apt to punish people for their homophobic, but give them a pass for racialized opinions.
Rhoden uses the events of the past few weeks—Richard Sherman being labeled a thug for his exuberant post-game interview; Texas Tech’s Marcus Smart pushing a fan who allegedly called him a racial slur; and Missouri football star Michael Sam coming out as gay—as a backdrop for his argument.
The N.F.L. surely will not tolerate publicly expressed closed-mindedness around the subject of sexual orientation, just as the N.B.A. has fined star players like Roy Hibbert and Kobe Bryant for using homophobic slurs.
Many of us find it easier to convene at the universal intersection of sexual orientation than to negotiate the complicated streets of race. During football and basketball season, gigantic home entertainment systems blast race and ethnicity into America’s living rooms, from Compton-born, dreadlock-wearing, Stanford-educated Richard Sherman to a young star player like Marcus Smart who has had previous blowups.
Will the reaction to Sam be different? The early reviews have offered hope. In the wake of Sam’s announcement, many fans, players and commentators urged the N.F.L. to draft and embrace him. Now that his cards are on the table, team owners, general managers and players will have to put theirs on the table as well.
Although we should shy away from partaking in the Oppression Olympics for the most part, Rhoden makes a compelling point. While many Americans still hold very antiquated views about both race and sexuality, folks seem much more comfortable punishing blatant homophobia, while overlooking both coded and overt racialized language.