Anti-Gay Sports with Kobe Bryant, Roger McDowell...Dave Zirin Interview

Uploaded by MidweekPolitics on 13.05.2011

David Pakman: Dave Zirin from is with us. A lot to talk about with Dave,
we have the Kobe Bryant anti-gay slur, we have NHL player Sean Avery supporting same-sex
marriage and then being ridiculed by a sports agent, and then ,of course, we have Roger
McDowell using a bat to simulate gay sex and make fun of people. How is this all happening...
it's true, it's all in threes, isn't it, Dave?
Dave Zirin: Yeah. I mean, obviously, there's a huge amount of coincidence and happenstance
to all of these things taking place, but at the same time, it shouldn't be that surprising,
because we've seen a growing, serious movement for LGBT rights over the last several years,
we've seen several NFL players like Scott Fujita and Brendan Ayanbadejo, both of them
came out in favor of same-sex marriage. We've seen several polls taken that show that majorities
of pro athletes would have no problem with having a gay teammate in the locker room.
So given all the attention faced on these issues, it shouldn't be too surprising that
it becomes something that then generates this level of discussion.
David: After the Kobe Bryant incident, we talked to former NBA player John Amaechi,
and he pointed out something that I also noticed about the initial Kobe apology, which was
he was apologizing for people being upset, as opposed to apologizing because he said
something incredibly anti-gay. Is that... that's kind of par for the course with a lot
of these athletes and apologies, isn't it?
Zirin: I think it's par for the course with a lot of public figures. And it never ceases
to amaze me, because anybody who's been in any kind of relationship with somebody knows
that you never apologize by saying I'm sorry if you were offended, or I'm sorry if you're
upset. That's like the first thing you learn, if you're trying to have any kind of relationship
with anybody.
And Kobe, in the aftermath of that, they did a PSA, him and the other Lakers teammates,
and I think the thing about Kobe is-- we have to remember, is that if there's not a microphone
there, it's not caught, and it's not even discussed. And what it shines a light on is
that even though a lot of male athletes will say privately that they won't care if they
have a gay teammate when they have to answer a poll question, homophobia is still very
accepted in the locker room.
I mean, it says something that there are more gay Navy SEALs than there are active male
professional athletes, I mean, out gay Navy SEALs, than there are professional athletes.
I mean, it says something about the level of machismo and the level of, I don't know
what word to use for it other than code, this code that says that being gay is equated with
weakness, and being weak means that there's no space for you in the world of men's athletics.
We're still plagued with this in men's sports, and it's incredibly harmful. I mean, it's
harmful to women who are labeled with the lesbian tag if they are interested in sports,
and it's harmful to men who don't measure up to some kind of masculine ideal that Kobe
Bryant perpetuates.
David: With regard to Roger McDowell, the long and short of it is that he said to some
fans, "Are you a homo couple or a threesome?" and then he used the bat and then his hand
to simulate sex. And what-- I think that what made the situation exponentially worse was
when Gloria Allred, in front of kids, reenacted the entire thing with a baseball bat, with
some guy making a circle with his fingers. When I saw that, I thought what on Earth is
Gloria Allred thinking by reenacting this whole thing?
Zirin: Well, there are those who would say that Gloria Allred was put on this Earth to
make Rush Limbaugh happy as the worst kind of stereotype of what it means to stand up
for liberal causes. I mean, I put on my Facebook page, for all of us who want to fight homophobia
in sports, hey, Gloria Allred, you're not helping.
David: Exactly.
Zirin: The worst part about it is that it puts the focus on Gloria Allred and not on
the focus of what occurred. I mean, Roger McDowell, in one fell swoop, offended LGBT
people, offended baseball fans, and offended kids. I mean, one of the things he said was
that... not just the gay slurs, but he also pointed to this family and he pointed to the
kids and he said you have no place here. I mean, they're at a baseball stadium.
David: That's right. I think that what happened was one of the adults who overheard this said
hey, there's kids here, and he responded that kids have no place at a baseball stadium?
Was that it?
Zirin: Yeah, I mean, other witnesses said that he was referencing the upper bleachers
with a bat when he said it as if to say you belong way, way up there and not this close
to the field, but even that is horrific. Like the idea that you can't go down and interact
with a pitching coach before a game, I mean, it's one of those things where you want to
say get over yourself!
And, but, you know, the other issue here, this is... I talked about this on ESPN, and
I wonder if this means I won't get back put on ESPN, is that this is also an issue about
the Atlanta Braves franchise. And I got some lovely emails in the aftermath of saying this,
but the Atlanta Braves are a team that in recent years, they had, of course, their relief
pitcher, John Rocker, infamously led off with a homophobic tirade, they had their future
Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz compare a gay marriage to somebody marrying an animal.
David: That's right.
Zirin: With a big smirk on his face. And you had the team itself organize a series of these
things called "Faith Nights" at the park, and they had to issue an apology when one
of their Faith Nights involved the organization Focus on the Family. And Focus on the Family,
an organization that promotes and believes in things like reparative gay therapy, are
actually tabling in front of the Atlanta Braves stadium with leaflets about how to repair
your gay son or your gay daughter. And they had to issue an apology and issue a statement
that in future Faith Nights, Focus on the Family would never be a part of that again.
So what I said is, you know, like if the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball really want
to show that they get this, the answer is not suspending Roger McDowell or even expelling
Roger McDowell, why not make LGBT rights and being sensitive to LGBT people, why not make
that a part of rookie orientation? Why not put out a statement that says if any of our
players who happen to be gay want to come out of the closet, Major League Baseball will
support you 100%? Why not do something like that instead of trying to...
David: Yeah, good luck getting that to happen, though, given the situation that you've described.
Hey, real quick, role models, some... we hear very often that athletes are inevitably role
models, and famously Charles Barkley once said I should not be your kids' role model,
he wrote that in one of his books, he said it a number of times. Inevitably, is there
some sense that you have that if someone chooses to be a professional athlete at the top level,
they are agreeing to be a role model, even if they don't want to be, and therefore have
to act based on that, or is it OK to just shirk that responsibility completely?
Zirin: You can shirk the responsibility all you want, but it's sort of like shirking the
laws of gravity. It's shirking the acceptance that the Earth is round or that the sky is
blue. I mean, you can go out there and act like a horse's ass and say I'm not a role
model, but guess what? You are role modeling being a horse's ass, and doing all the rest
of it. And that's something I learned when I was a teacher in D.C. public schools right
out of college, is that whether athletes consider themselves role models or not, they just are.
And so then we have to ask the question, what are they modeling? That's why with my writing,
I try to be very supportive of athletes like John Amaeche or other athletes who take political
stands, because if you model to kids hey, you're going to be a professional athlete,
that's a pretty false modeling, because 99.9% of them will never reach that plateau. But
if you're modeling the kids hey, what you think matters, standing on principle matters,
having a political thought in your head matters, not being like Roger McDowell matters, then
I think you're actually doing something very positive, and it's something that should be
supported by the media and by fans.
David: Dave Zirin, Hey, nice job with Carson Daly. I was surprised
he knew so much about the intersection of politics and sports, unless a producer was
feeding it to him in the breaks.
Zirin: I don't know what you're talking about, David.
David: All right, thanks, Dave, talk to you soon.
Zirin: He did a fantastic job.
David: All right, take care.
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