Howard story highlights homophobia, transphobia

For years it has seemed like the NBA and its surrounding community was the most inclusive and accepting in sports.

It is a time where NFL players like Colin Kaepernick get blacklisted for speaking out on social issues. And in baseball, MLB players like Chris Archer say they feel uncomfortable speaking out on social issues because of a lack of support amongst teammates.

But the NBA always seemed looser and more open. Players have recently had public spats with the president over social media.

The NBA itself threatened to pull the All Star Game out of Charlotte until North Carolina until the state reconsidered its controversial “bathroom bill.”

But the league’s reputation took a big hit over the weekend thanks to the social media reaction by fans to a story about Dwight Howard of the Washington Wizards.

On Saturday, a man named Masin Elije took to Twitter and accused Howard of threatening him and harassing him after a relationship between the two ended.

Elije claimed that he was upset to learn the Howard was attending sex parties and had other relationships with transgender men and women.

When the story broke on social media, it was followed by a wave of so-called jokes that were filled with homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

For days people made fun of Howard’s sexuality, even though Howard has not commented on the story yet.

It was a disheartening display from the fans of what is supposed to be the most inclusive and accepting sports league in the country.

It’s no wonder there are no openly gay athletes in the four major sports if this is how the fans react.

There is very little information on the Howard story so far, as the mainstream media has seemed hesitant to dive in to such a delicate subject.

But based on what we do know, everyone involved seemed to be a consenting adult. The real story is about the alleged harassment, but it has been buried by the segment of society that thinks homophobic and transphobic jokes made at people’s expense are funny.

The response from the public has proven that we are a long way from truly accepting and including members of the LGBTQ community.

If people feel they need to threaten someone’s life to keep a same-sex relationship a secret, it shows how terrifying it is to be judged by our bigoted society.

It is a shame that the story unfolded this way. I hope that it does not act as a setback for the progress the LGBTQ community has made in the sporting world, and the world in general. But I fear it may.

Adam Tumino is a junior journalism major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or ajtumino@eiu.edu.

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