The current beef brewing over Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant's courtside cursing demonstrates once again the willingness of America's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) leadership to take a brother down by any means necessary. Bryant, once accused of rape and certifiably a hothead, came under the wrath of major LGBT institutions like HRC and GLAAD after calling a referee a "fucking faggot" in response to receiving a technical foul during Tuesday's match against the San Antonio spurs.
Armed with their well-oiled media machine, both groups quickly issued formal statements blasting Bryant, which were snapped up by major LGBT blogs whose writers and readers have now declared the pro-baller America's homophobe-in-chief.
Although Bryant's word choice is certainly unfortunate, equally worrisome is the near-instant racial — and racist — overtones now permeating this debate. At its core is the comparison of the word "faggot" with "nigger," a comparison that has become emblematic of the LGBT movement's unabashed co-option of the African-American struggle. In this case, reader comments on blog after blog repeatedly invoke the word "nigger" in their Kobe takedown as — in the words of Joe.My.God reader "beeblmeyer" — they "wonder how Mr. Bryant would feel if someone said, 'Fucking nigger.' "
The real wonder here is how folks could think there is anything to compare in the first place. Without a doubt, Bryant uttered the epithet in anger, but in a fit of homophobia? Not necessarily, at least until we know for certain whether referee Bennie Adams is gay.
Despite what gay, black ex-NBA player John Amaechi might have said in today's USA Today, calling someone a "fucking nigger" has an entirely different historical meaning and context. A black person is called a nigger precisely and exclusively because he is black. Period. And the core of the word's offense — and racism — stems from this sheer conspicuousness. I've been called a nigger more than once, and there’s no doubt it was because of the color of my skin, not because I'd pissed someone off.
And hopefully they'll soon start doing that, now that Bryant has been slapped with a $100,000 fine by the NBA and released an official apology statement to GLAAD late Wednesday. Sounding both on message and most likely sincere, Bryant said that his actions "were out of frustration during the heat of the game … [and] do not reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities." I, for one, never thought they did.
Bryant is not the first black man taken to task by the LGBT lynch mob for calling a colleague a faggot. Back in 2007, Isaiah Washington went on an infamous anti-gay tirade against his Grey's Anatomy co-star T.R. Knight. Here, however, the homophobia is incontestable. Knight is gay, and there's little doubt that Washington chose his words accordingly.
The outcry — though oversized — was justified and understandable; and while Washington may have lost his career, the nation was provided with an important "teachable moment" in the battle to combat homophobia and mass media's role in it.
Meanwhile, from complaints about "gay apartheid" to declarations that "gay is the new black," LGBT leaders demonstrate a kind of movement mooching never before seen in the history of identity politics. Yet like the word "holocaust" for Jews or "genocide" for Rwandans, the word "nigger" — because of all it conveys — is a sacred statement that must be kept off-limits from those who would massage its meaning. Using it in the context of Bryant's slur is that kind of abuse, writ large.
White-led LGBT blogs such as Joe.My.God and particularly Towleroad have traditionally shown little leadership in these kinds of efforts; sadly, minority blogs such as the one by openly gay black blogger Pam Spaulding have also failed to chime in with some context.
From Donald Trump to the Westboro Baptist Church folks, the enemies of LGBT liberation are very much alive, well and ready for action. Kobe Bryant, I suspect, simply wants to get back on the basketball court. Pro sports is a fiery realm of testosterone laced with narcissism, where terms like "faggot" are often used with impunity. One day Bryant may call yet another referee a "fucking faggot." But unless he believes that ref is gay – sorry, John Amaechi — "faggot" will still not be the new "nigger."
David Kaufman is a New York-based writer who regularly contributes to the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Time and Monocle.