Originally written January 16, 2013 on Deuce of Davenport:
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David Stern likes to act as though he has the best interests of the NBA in mind. He portrays himself as the keeper of order and decorum. Dress like a thug? Dress code. Fight? Suspension. Insult gay people? Minuscule fine and a slap on the wrist. Amar’e Stoudamire and Joakim Noah were fined $50,000 and Kobe Bryant $100,000 for their comments. When it comes to homophobia, the NBA is the equivalent of UEFA and FIFA. Thankfully a Swedish soccer team has shown real courage when it comes to dealing with this issue. Swedish seventh division team Sörskogens IF fired their whole first team after they made homophobic comments to another team during a match. During the match, players from Sörskogens were heard saying “you suck **** for 50 kronor”, “all of you have HIV”, and “we’re probably going to get infected”, among several other homophobic remarks, the local Mitt i Huddinge newspaper reported. “It was a little unpleasant when we went into the dressing room after the game. One of our players was also threatened after things got a little heated on the pitch,” Snipers coach Christoffer Smitz told SR. The team was fined 5,000 kronor ($755) by the Swedish Football Association and the team officials had to attend sensitivity training. However they went a step further and fired the whole first team. “We had no choice but to suspend the entire team. That kind of language isn’t appropriate for football or anywhere else,” club chair Torp told Mitt i. The Local also refers to the players being suspended. Maybe something is lost in translation but either way it’s a better move than most teams or professional league have made when dealing with issues of homophobia. Ah the hell with it. David Stern, Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter could all learn something from this. FIFA and UEFA also have issues dealing with homophobia but racism gets more play due to the fact bias against gays is more accepted in sports worldwide. The usual penalties (if any) are monetary in amounts that would make any halfway-decent player or country association laugh. The NBA is no better. The incidents involving Bryant, Stoudamire and Noah were opportunities for Stern and the NBA to make a statement but they took the easy way out by issuing fines that probably didn’t make any of them blink. Stern obviously isn’t concerned with player opinions so that’s not a reason for such a weak response. LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign called the league out but curiously complimented Stern on fining the players. Really? Others praised the league for their actions too. This is setting the bar way too low. Strong actions by leagues and teams would set an example for players and fans to show certain behavior won’t be tolerated. Suspending a player for a certain period of time or even releasing him depending on the gravity of the offense would send a message. It’s impossible to change people’s opinions overnight but it needs to start somewhere. Teams also shouldn’t wait for leagues to take action. They should investigate and take action on their own within the scope of collective bargaining agreements and their respective leagues should back their moves. The MLS took a much stronger stand by banning the Houston Dynamo’s Colin Smith for three games and fining him for insulting a ball boy with an anti-gay remark during a game. He was also forced to attend diversity and sensitivity training. Consider how much less MLS players make than players in other major professional leagues and the amount of games in the season. That is a much stronger statement. Could more be done? Absolutely but it’s more than most are doing right now. It’s also refreshing to see individual players taking stands such as the NFL’s Brendan Ayanbedejo and Chris Kluwe in the face of opposition or mockery even within their own locker rooms. Racism is more of an issue in European sports than it is in the US but homophobia is something that still prevails on both sides of the Atlantic.
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