The main questions I still have about the ugly Rajon Rondo incident are these: What do his teammates think about Rondo’s hurling an anti-gay slur at a referee? And what do other NBA players think?
The players’ public silence is disturbing given the outpouring of condemnation from league officials, the Sacramento Kings organization and local newspaper columnists. Do the players not care that one of their own felt free to call a respected, longtime referee a “faggot”? Do they not feel a moral obligation to stand up for tolerance and diversity? Is maintaining team solidarity more important than speaking out against bigotry?
Equally disturbing is the lack of reportorial zeal in pursuing answers to these questions. Intolerance thrives when there is a supportive or acquiescent culture. I haven’t seen one article about player reaction to Rondo’s Dec. 3 outburst directed at longtime ref Bill Kennedy. The National Basketball Players Association does not mention the incident on its website.
In fact, the exact nature of the incident might have gone unreported if Kennedy and the National Basketball Referees Association’s general counsel hadn’t revealed specifics to Yahoo Sports 10 days after the Kings-Celtics game. Kennedy also took the occasion to announce that he was gay. Rondo was kicked out of the game, played in Mexico City as part of an international goodwill event, and later suspended for one game by the NBA. Yet neither the Bee nor the Boston Globe initially mentioned the slur. The NBA itself was vague in announcing the reason for Rondo’s suspension.
Expressions of anti-gay sentiments are nothing new in the NBA. In 2011, both the LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (directed at a referee) and Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah (directed at a fan) used homophobic slurs during games, according to Huffington Post writer Erick Fernandez. Roy Hibbert, then Indiana Pacers center, used the term “no homo” in a postgame interview, Fernandez said. All three were issued fines.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave a clear signal that the NBA culture is rife with homophobia. Rondo’s comments came as no shock, Popovich said. “Why would I be surprised? You see it all the time.”
If that’s so, it’s about time that players are held accountable for their tolerance of an anti-gay culture. It’s about time reporters start posing hard questions to these public figures who are hailed as heroes by the nation’s youth.
What does Kings star DeMarcus Cousins have to say about Rondo’s remarks? In an upbeat Dec. 25 Bee story, Cousins said: “That’s my man. We talk a lot. There’s nothing we don’t talk about.”
Really, DeMarcus? What do you two have to say about gays? And what do you, who aspires to be the team’s leader, have to say to the community on this subject?