A young National Basketball Association fan named “Chris,” who is also a member of the LGBTQ community, discovered a disturbing number of homophobic tweets by current NBA players across the league. Speaking to SB Nation’s Outsports.com, Chris chose to keep his identity anonymous “out of fear of online attacks from fans of the players or teams.”
Chris was able to find 78 homophobic tweets from 40 players throughout the league — a full 32 of the players remain active, according to Outsports.com.
The tweets run the gauntlet in terms of how explicitly homophobic they are. Some are as tame — and absurd — as Center for the Atlanta Hawks Clint Capela saying “no homo” after wishing a friend luck, while others feature explicitly homophobic slurs directed as insults.
The majority of tweets were sent between 2009 and 2013, at a time when many of the players were still very young (some even still teenagers in high school), and attitudes around LGBTQ issues vastly different from now.
But openly gay basketball player Derrick Gordon, who plays professionally in Germany, told Outsports.com that such statements shouldn’t be tolerated no matter when they were posted.
“I don’t care how long ago it was, it shows the person’s character,” Gordon said. “It’s a slap in the face to me, to other people in my community. That’s disrespectful. I’m not for people losing their jobs, but words like that can’t be tolerated.”
Chris found the tweets over a weekend while checking players’ Twitter accounts to “make sure [he] was rooting for the right people.” He stated that while the number of homophobic tweets he found was “shocking,” it didn’t surprise him. He noted that homophobia “runs very deep” in male sport league culture.
However, Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay player in the NBA in 2013 and has been speaking to NBA rookies since 2015 about why such language is harmful, stated that he has noticed a change in the league.
He has noticed more rookies are now willing to publicly share that they personally know someone in the LGBTQ community, and that many of the same players who tweeted the homophobic remarks are publicly supportive of LGBTQ athletes today.
This positive sentiment about the current state of the league’s viewpoint of the LGBTQ community isn’t shared by all who spoke to Outsports.com.
Gordon was firm on his belief that these statements shouldn’t be tolerated, highlighting a particularly heinous 2011 retweet from Phoenix Suns Small Forward Torrey Craig that said LGBTQ individuals “need a bullet in their head.”
Gordon said that when someone is using such intense language, it’s “totally disrespectful.”
The idea that the NBA may not be as welcoming to the LGBTQ community today as the league portrays is not without merit. In 2021, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant used homophobic remarks and insults in private messages sent to comedian Michael Rappaport. So, while the attitude towards the LGBTQ community has improved significantly within the NBA, there remain remnants of a culture that allow for such cruel language to be used.
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