‘In the Life’ premieres episode about homophobia in sports featuring Pride parade VIP Ben Cohen

Today, In the Life announced its newest episode, “Changing the Game,” taking a look at the gay element in sports. Looking at high-profile incidences of homophobia with slurs by basketball player Kobe Bryant or Atlanta Braves coach Roger McDowell, the show examines the effects of trickle-down homophobia on student athletes and the queer community in general.

The episode features appearances by Tiki Barber, Bam Bam Muelens and rugby athlete, as well as Dallas Pride parade VIP, Ben Cohen.

In the Life appears on public television but I didn’t seem to find the listing on the website. No matter. You can watch the episode below.

—  Rich Lopez

Phoenix Suns exec tells newspaper he’s gay

Rick Welts

Rick Welts among most prominent active figures in sports to come out

NEW YORK — Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts revealed to the public that he is gay in a story posted on The New York Times’ website Sunday, saying he wants to break down one of the last significant social barriers in sports.

Welts’ declaration is the latest development on a subject has gained attention in the sports world recently, after Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s use of a gay slur on the basketball court and NHL player Sean Avery’s public support of same-sex marriage.

Welts talked to NBA commissioner David Stern, WNBA president Val Ackerman, Hall of Famer Bill Russell and Suns guard Steve Nash before discussing his sexual orientation with a reporter from the Times, the newspaper said. All of them offered Welts their support.

“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” the longtime executive told the paper. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

The Suns did not offer a statement Sunday when contacted by The Associated Press. Messages left with Welts’ public relations team were not returned.

Welts is one of the most prominent figures active in sports to openly declare that he is gay, although there has yet to be an active player in the NBA, Major League Baseball or the NFL to make such a statement. Some athletes have done so after their playing careers.

The 58-year-old Welts, who began his career as a ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics, spent several years with Stern in the league office. He was the architect of the All-Star Weekend and helped raise the NBA’s profile before leaving for the Suns’ front office.

Welts told Stern about his sexual orientation during a meeting in New York last month. The next day, Bryant responded to a technical foul by calling referee Bennie Adams a “faggot” during the third quarter of a game against San Antonio — touching off a firestorm of controversy and underscoring the taboo nature of the subject in sports.

The Lakers star was fined $100,000; Bryant has since offered multiple apologies.

Also last month, Atlanta Braves coach Roger McDowell allegedly made homophobic comments, crude gestures and threatened a fan with a bat before a game in San Francisco. McDowell served a two-week suspension and also apologized for his remarks.

Then there was Avery, the outspoken New York Rangers agitator, who offered his support for same-sex marriage in a video as part of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.

Hockey agent Todd Reynolds tweeted that it was “Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage.’ Legal or not, it will always be wrong.” Damian Goddard, who hosted a show on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, tweeted his support for Reynolds and was fired.

Among the only people Welts opened up to were his parents and younger, only sibling, Nancy — although Stern said he had a feeling his friend was gay. Stern even telephoned Welts after his longtime partner, Arnie, died from complications of AIDS in 1994.

Now, after all these years, Welts has decided it’s time to come out of the shadows.

“What I didn’t say at the time was: I think there’s a good chance the world will find this unremarkable,” Stern told the Times, recalling their meeting in which Welts revealed he was gay. “I don’t know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes.”

Welts said he told Nash because they hold each other in high professional regard. According to the newspaper, Nash was tipped off about what Welts wanted to discuss and was surprised only because he thought everyone already knew that Welts was gay.

“I think it’s a shame, for all the obvious reasons, that this is a leap that he has to take,” Nash said. “Anyone who’s not ready for this needs to catch up. … He’s doing anyone who’s not ready for this a favor.”

—  John Wright

F-ing Kobe

The Mavs schooled the Lakers this week, but there’s one lesson L.A.’s star player still needs to learn

DAN WOOG  | Contributing Sports Writer
outfield@qsyndicate.com

OF050911
ANOTHER REASON TO ROOT FOR THE MAVS Bryant needs to behave like the role model he is.

I’m pretty sure Bennie Adams is straight. So what’s the big deal with Kobe Bryant calling him a “fucking faggot” during a nationally televised game? After all, that’s common parlance in locker rooms and on basketball courts around the country — not to mention countless school hallways, playgrounds and everywhere else.

Precisely.

Bryant’s outburst (for those of you who somehow missed it) came last month, after receiving a technical foul. Bryant (for those of you who somehow don’t know that his team, the Lakers, got schooled by the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs) is one of the NBA’s true superstars, making about $25 million a year. In other words, he’s not some kid playing “horse” in an empty gym. He’s not a boy who doesn’t know any better, or a closeted kid trying to fit in by hurling anti-slurs.

Kobe is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. His purple  No. 24 jersey is worn by admiring fans around the globe. Millions of people look up to Kobe, admire everything he does.

And listen to every word he says.

When it became clear that his F-bomb detonated loudly, Bryant went into damage control. Through the Lakers, he issued one of those non-apology apologies: “What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do not reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities and were not meant to offend anyone.”

So what are Bryant’s “feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities?” He didn’t say. If he did not mean to offend anyone, why did he call Adams a “fucking faggot?” Why not “a horrible official?” Or simply “you asshole?”

The NBA acted swiftly, with Commissioner David Stern calling Bryant’s outburst “offensive and inexcusable … such a distasteful term should never be tolerated … and [has] no place in our game.” He then fined Bryant $100,000.

Seem like a lot? Not when compared with some NBA fines: In 2007, the league fined Vladimir Radmanovic (also a Laker — and another reason to root for the Mavs) $500,000 for violating his contract by snowboarding.

Despite his “apology,” Bryant said he would fight the fine, a step he called “standard protocol,” whatever that means.

Come to think of it, “standard protocol” could mean standing up, admitting to a mistake, recognizing the power of role models and issuing a strong statement explaining exactly why words like “faggot” hurt. Describing how they hurt straight kids as well as gay ones, by reinforcing stereotypes. Then Bryant could lead a campaign to eliminate, once and for all, the use of anti-gay words in basketball.

In other words, he could do something like what NBA players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley are already doing. The Phoenix Suns teammates recently filmed a public service announcement for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Ad Council’s “Think Before You Speak Campaign” that airs during the NBA playoffs! The ads are striking; they reach an important audience during a high-powered event, and the NBA’s commitment to the campaign underscores Stern’s statement about language.

Ironically, Hall and Dudley taped their PSA just hours before Bryant demonstrated his own inability to think before he spoke.

Words aren’t the only weapons; images hurt, too. For years, the Washington Wizards have shown a “Kiss Cam” where two people appear on the JumboTron and are urged to kiss. The crowd goes crazy (hey, it’s better than watching the Wizards play). Then the camera cuts to two players from the visiting team. Now the fans really howl. The players make faces, hide under towels or pretend to ignore each other.

But what would happen if the “Kiss Cam” showed two male fans and they did kiss, because they had gone to the game as a couple? Maybe it could happen when the Wizards play the Lakers. Maybe after the game, Kobe Bryant could head into the stands, high-five the couple and pose for a picture.

That would speak far louder than his “fucking faggot” words. Or the half-hearted “heat of the moment” apology that followed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Oft-fined Mavs owner Mark Cuban, once called ‘faggot’ by Kenyon Martin, mum on Kobe penalty

It was with great anticipation that we awaited Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s response to our inquiry about the $100,000 fine levied against Kobe Bryant by the NBA on Wednesday for shouting an anti-gay slur at a referee.

After all, Cuban is no stranger to being fined by the league. According to Wikipedia, Cuban has racked up more than $1.5 million in fines for 13 incidents, including several involving criticism of referees.

On the other hand, Cuban was once on the receiving end of an anti-gay slur from a player. Kenyon Martin of the Denver Nuggets called Cuban a “faggot motherfucker” after a playoff game in 2009 (video above). Martin was retaliating for Cuban’s comments a few nights before, when the Mavs owner told Martin’s mother that her son was a “thug.”

Finally, Cuban is no homophobe. After former NBA player John Amaechi came out as gay in 2007, Cuban went on national TV and said that if a current player came out they would be a hero and become rich, despite some “idiots” who might condemn them. Read Cuban’s subsequent interview with Dallas Voice here.

So, how would all this factor in to Cuban’s thoughts on Kobe’s fine? Here’s his response to our email from this morning:

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Kobe Bryant fined $100,000 for anti-gay slur; Laura Miller to endorse Kunkle

Kobe Bryant

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using an anti-gay slur against a referee on Tuesday night. Bryant was caught on video calling ref Bennie Adams a “fucking faggot” after Adams gave him a technical foul. Bryant apologized before the fine was handed down Wednesday, and he later reportedly phoned Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese personally. In case you’re wondering, Bryant earns about $25 million a year in salary (not counting endorsements). If you earn $50,000 annually, Bryant’s $100,000 fine would be the equivalent of a $200 speeding ticket. Even though Bryant wasn’t suspended, we suppose the fine is progress as the NBA moves to become more gay-friendly. On the same day that Bryant used the slur, Phoenix Suns player Grant Hill taped an ad that will air during the NBA Finals for GLSEN’s “Think Before You Speak” campaign.

2. Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller will endorse ex-Police Chief David Kunkle for mayor tonight, The Dallas Morning News reports (subscription required). Miller’s endorsement could hurt Kunkle in South Dallas, where she wasn’t particularly popular, but will help him in other parts of the city. It will almost certainly help Kunkle among LGBT voters, who view Miller as an icon. Kunkle has already received the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats.

3. Delaware is poised to legalize civil unions and become the eighth state to offer same-sex couples a comprehensive legal status short of marriage. The Delaware House is expected to vote today on the civil unions bill, which already cleared the Senate and has the support of Gov. Jack Markell.

—  John Wright