In Sunday’s post game interview with a room full of reporters, Roy Hibbert very subtly uttered an offensive homephobic slur; if you weren’t paying close attention, you likely missed it. I know I missed it when it initially occurred. But, in today’s age of social media, youtube and saturated news coverage, nothing gets missed.
As you just heard from the clip, the context that the phrase “no homo” was used by Hibbert was to playfully confirm that the comments that immediately preceded, “because he stretched me out so much” were in no way to be confused with some homosexual euphemism. Hibbert simply wanted to make certain that everybody in the news room knew he was not gay – not that there’s anything wrong with that. For those old enough to remember, the aforementioned phrase was a Seinfeld reference from an episode that originally aired 20 years ago and it demonstrates how long we have been dealing with intolerance to gay and lesbian lifestyles. It also provides a good example of how the controversial subject matter can be handled with sensitivity and humor.
Unlike Seinfeld, Hibbert’s attempt at humor was sophomoric, offensive, insensitive and to use it in the forum of a press conference with reporters and cameras present was plain stupid. Especially, considering that Hibbert is a 5 year veteran of the NBA who is accustomed to dealing with the media. In other words, he knows better.
A penalty was in order for Hibbert’s act and the NBA responded swiftly and appropriately. On Sunday, the NBA fined Hibbert 75k for using what the NBA termed, “inappropriate and vulgar language.”
“While Roy has issued an apology, which is no doubt sincere, a fine is necessary to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated by the NBA,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern.
David Stern’s statement was succinct and to the point.
There were some that felt that a fine was not enough and a suspension of Hibbert for game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals game was necessary to send a message of support to the gay and lesbian community. Dave Zirin, a political and sports blogger for The Nation was one that held the firm position that Hibbert should have been suspended for game 7 in a “historic statement of principle.”
A hefty fine, like the one assessed by the NBA in this case, serves the same purpose and sends the same message as Zirin suggests.
Whenever a penalty is considered, the question that needs to be asked is does the punishment fit the crime. It is this philosophical question that is used in determining what is fair and just in our judicial system.
In determining whether the punishment is appropriate to the crime, two things need to be determined.
First, is there precedence? In the case of players using homophobic slurs in the NBA, there are sadly plenty of examples.
The NBA fined Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant $100k back in 2011 for shouting the term, “faggot” to an NBA official during a game.
Also in 2011, the NBA fined Joakin Noah $50k for using the same slur as Kobe, except his was directed at a fan in the stands.
In both Bryant and Noah’s case, no suspensions were handed down by the league.
Secondly, it must be determined if the punishment is reasonable and that has to be assessed by reasonably thinking people. Suspension of a key player for a crucial game 7 where it’s win or go home, while certainly effective, is overkill. You don’t go to prison for parking in a loading only zone under the same principle of reason.
There really shouldn’t be any place for demeaning homophobic slurs similar to what Hibbert demonstrated, but lets not be naive as that type of talk is commonplace and especially rampant in men’s and boy’s locker rooms throughout all sports. In an ideal society, we would eliminate all such talk, but that simply isn’t realistic. What we do expect and should hope for is that if tossing around homophobic slurs is what your particular circle finds hilarious; make certain that it stays within your circle. Sadly, I think that is the only realistic outcome that we can expect.
Maybe as Zirin suggests, the NBA should do more. Maybe there will be a time and place for the NBA to begin doing more to increase awareness of gay and lesbian issues.
However, in this case, at this time, under these set of circumstances and with the precedence that has already been set, the NBA got it right.
- Fern Rea