Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NBA Sending a Lasting Message with Focus and Fines

There isn't a sports fan in the world who didn't grow up trying to emulate their favorite players.  Heck, there isn't a person on earth that hasn't tried to mimic their favorite celebrity.

Stacey Augmon
As an avid sports nut, I've done some weird things to try to be like my athlete heroes.  When I was ten, I remember drawing a goatee on my face to look like Stacey Augmon.  I got a haircut with three lines in the side of my head like Patrick Ewing.  I wore an arm sleeve a la Allen Iverson.  When Kobe had that sweet Red, White, and Blue wristband after 9-11....you better believe I was rockin' one the next day.

But I didn't keep my idolizing strictly to athletes.  Oh no.  Hollywood was in play, too.

I used to wear this fresh jean jacket and shades in an attempt to become the sixth member of New Kids on the Block.  I died my hair blond in 8th grade and then cornrowed it three years later following the questionable hair styles of Justin Timberlake.  And in college, I popped my collar Kanye West-style.  Sometimes, I even dared to go double-popped. (You've got to have some 'you know what's' to pull off the double-popped.)

It's human nature to copy the trends and styles of the times and that's why I am encouraged by the recent efforts of the NBA which is stepping up to crack down on discriminatory actions and tirades.

Over the past month, the league has handed out $150,000 in fines to two players, Kobe Bryant ($100,000) and Joakim Noah ($50,000), for using homophobic slurs on the court.

Any one that has ever played a sport has said something in the heat of battle that they surely regretted once cooler heads prevailed.  So, I don't think Kobe and Noah are bad people, they are just two men who used a poor choice of words and did so in front of an international audience.

Mistakes happen, the key is to learn from them and become a better person as a result of the lessons learned.

The NBA should be commended for its swift action.  In both cases, without hesitation or a long-drawn out debate, the league punished the players where it hurts most, their pockets.

I know what you're thinking.  The fines are one-percent of Noah's annual salary and less than .5-percent of Kobe's.  That's not the point.

The point is the league is taking initiative and a leadership role in the sports world by sending a message that discrimination of any form is not acceptable.

Grant Hill encourages "Think B4 U Speak"
Besides the fines, some NBA players also have made commercials condemning the use of the word "gay" in a derogatory way and others have spoken publicly on the need for more acceptance in the locker room.

This is a big step.

I've been in my fair share of professional and collegiate locker rooms over the past few years and some of  what players say and do is beyond misogynistic.  That uber-macho mentality is seen as the norm and ultimately leaks into high school and grade-school locker rooms.

And that's where the problem is.

If kids see their sports stars throwing out homophobic, racist, or sexist language and actions, it's no surprise that they will think its acceptable. 

That kind of mentality leads to all sorts of problems, just check the news.  It seems as though there is a story about a teen suicide or bully beating as the lead story every week.  It's tragic and unnecessary.. 

If any league should take a step in preaching the message of acceptance, it's the NBA.  It's the most global of the four major team sports.  It has the most recognizable figures and the message the league delivers will likely resonate, if not in the short term, at least over time.  And for goodness sakes, it has players that look like Birdman Andersen (below), so there is no room not to be accepting of all people.
"Don't H8, Congratulate"

By the NBA taking a stand and offering an in-your-face, no tolerance approach to discrimination, it's telling kids and fans  that it's o.k to be different, and right to accept people of all genders, beliefs, sexual orientations, and races.

...Hopefully this level of acceptance is the next trend to catch on and is one followed by all players and fans.

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