Last week the NBA fined LA Lakers player Kobe Bryant for using profanity and a gay slur. Bryant has been ordered to pay $100,000 for calling a referee a word that GLBT youth report hearing daily. It’s a word that has a history of violence attributed to it and, while many sources disagree on exactly what that history is, today the word “fag” is clearly recognized as a derogatory term much like other racial and ethnic slurs. Using it, as Kobe did, in a fit of rage along with profanity clearly demonstrates that he didn’t intend on sending the NBA official a compliment.
What is refreshing about this is the NBA’s immediate reaction and condemnation of Kobe’s use of this word. Despite the reputation that professional sports has for being homophobic, NBA Commissioner Davis Stern didn’t hesitate to call-out Kobe for unacceptable conduct. While I was a bit surprised, but nevertheless very happy to see Kobe be held accountable for use of this slur, I still find it disappointing that in law enforcement phrases like, “that’s so gay,” and use of the word, “fag” and “fagot” often go un-noticed. Like professional sports, homophobia is alive and well in many law enforcement agencies. And one of the reasons that it still exits is because the use of inappropriate gay slurs is tolerated. I’m not suggesting that agency executives and leaders encourage use of these words, but by not setting a professional standard and reacting to use of these words like David Stern did, they are condoning the conduct. What is really disturbing is that these slurs get used by professionals who have taken an oath to defend the Constitutional rights of all people. These are “peace officers” who take an oath to a code of ethics that demands “exemplary” following laws and department policies and no tolerance for unprofessional conduct, including language.
I expect more from law enforcement officers than I do from a basketball player. I expect more from law enforcement leaders and executives than I do from the NBA Commissioner. I think we all should. It’s about time that all law enforcement professionals step up in the same way that David Stern did and put an end to any level of tolerance for use of these words. Middle schools, high schools, colleges, and a good portion of the the rest of society have already stepped up and recognize use of these words are wrong. At least we can expect the same from those we pay to protect us, all of us.