Recently, CLNS writer Nick Sannicandro wrote a piece on homosexuality in sports. In it, he expressed the opinion that the culture of fear pervasive in sports is keeping professional athletes in the closet. I do not agree with many of his conclusions, and in fact, previously wrote an article putting forth different ideas. He and I have different opinions, both expressed publicly, yet neither of us had to be shamed or kowtowed. Imagine that.
At the end of Sannicandro’s post, professional provocateur Mike Munger wrote the following comment regarding former NBA player John Amaechi:
I’m sure there have been plenty of gay ball players throughout the years. My biggest issue is that it wasn’t convenient for Amaechi to come out about it until he wrote a book. While I don’t condone any kind of homophobic behavior in sports, it needs to be understood that sports are one of the last things left in the world where men feel like they can act like men. Sports are driven by A LOT of testosterone and “machismo” and you should at least understand where some of them are coming from, even if you don’t agree with it.
He later followed that up with this:
I AM NOT saying anyone has to agree with what Tim Hardaway said. But as an American it was his right to be able to use free speech to express his opinion. Just as it was Amaechi’s to come out of the closet for the sake of writing a book.
These statements managed to garner a response from Mr. Amaechi along with much backlash from the CLNS community at large, leading to Mike having to defend himself on his own radio show and in the comments, trying to make sure no one got the wrong idea about him. While I don’t agree with Munger and the concept that it matters when Amaechi wrote a book (as if writing a book at the wrong time would somehow discredit his sexuality), I do have a problem with the hypocrisy in the “stand against judgementalism” we seem to be taking in this society that seems to be prevalent in this case.
In his article, Nick wrote
At the end of the day we have no right to say whether someone’s actions or beliefs are right, wrong, or indifferent. We have no right to judge someone based on the color of their skin or their choices in life.
I don’t mean to single Nick out here, because this is a commonly held concept. People use “you shouldnt judge” as justification for going after Tim Hardaway or Mike Munger, despite the fact that they’re perfectly willing to tell Hardaway or Munger that their opinions are wrong. More importantly, who decided that we have no right to say whether someone’s actions or beliefs are right or wrong? I believe that we do have that right. Do you have the right to tell me that my beliefs about judging or anything else are wrong? If so, you’re being hypocritical.
Let’s take a look at Tim Hardaway for a moment. Obviously legality and first amendment rights don’t come into play, because no one ever attempted to put Hardaway in jail for his statements. He was entitled to his opinion, and suffered the consequences of that opinion. He only has himself to blame for not being aware of social realities and the problems his statements would cause. That being said, was it really fair? Tim Hardaway expressed an opinion that I personally found repulsive. The appropriate response is to have it affect your opinion of Hardaway. But once you use actions to punish someone for their opinions, you are taking things to a different place. Using political pressure to get a man fired for expressing an opinion that is different than yours is the height of judgementalism. If Hardaway ever took any actual action against homosexuals, obviously action in retaliation would be justified. But the fear of punishment for expressing opinions, no matter what those opinions are, creates a culture of fear in our society.
Who exactly is qualified to decide which opinions people are allowed to have or not have? Is it appropriate for the majority to decide what is right? If that is the case, I would remind you that the majority in this country once thought slavery was morally right. Does that mean it would have been right for me to own a slave in 1830? Suppose America reached a consensus on abortion and that consensus was the opposite of your own views on the subject. Do you think it would be fair to punish you for expressing your contradictory opinion? Should you have to live in fear of losing your job or livelihood because of it?
When I was going to write about this topic, I was told to “be careful”, because “you never know who is reading”. But I shouldn’t have to be careful, and it should not matter who is reading. All I ever do is express opinions. If you see fit to punish me for them, that is on your conscience.