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Kobe Bryant: The Real Outrage Isn’t That He Said “Fag”

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The real outrage is that at a time when anti-gay name-calling and bullying are leading causes of LGBTQ teen suicide, saying “fag” enables and encourages millions to continue harassing our youth.

Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ superstar basketball player, Tuesday night looked straight into a TNT TV camera and called the referee a “fucking fag.” Bryant’s defense? “Frustration.” It took Bryant three attempts and twenty-four hours to reconcile the situation with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and their allies, but if his attempts — at least at first — felt half-hearted, perhaps it’s because they were. While Internet platforms like Twitter and Facebook voraciously took to the controversy, it was plain Bryant’s fans and defenders out-numbered his LGBT-supporting opponents — if not in number, at least in volume.

Ironically, Bryant’s words could not have been more relevant. Just hours earlier the NBA, the Ad Council, and GLSEN had been taping a public service announcement against anti-gay language as part of GLSEN’s “Think Before You Speak” campaign, to be aired during the NBA finals, in an effort to show the league as more “gay-friendly.” And this week marks the fifteenth anniversary of GLSEN’s “Day of Silence,” an effort during which “hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools,” according to GLSEN.

“The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone,” was Kobe Bryant’s initial defense — short and none-too-sweet. And perhaps taking his cue from Senator John Kyl’s lie last week, (Kyl told Congress and America, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,” only to be forced to retract it later by saying it was “not intended to be a factual statement,”) Bryant offered, “What I said last night should not be taken literally.” Bryant never explained how one could take the term, “fucking fag,” literally, but added, “My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.”

 


What I said last night should not be taken literally,” Bryant offered — never explaining how one could take the term, “fucking fag,” literally — adding, “My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.”



 

U.K. rugby star and straight-ally Ben Cohen had a few words for Kobe Bryant about frustration. The 32-year old gay-friendly icon called Bryant’s outburst “disappointing,” and added, “As a professional athlete and rugby World Cup champion, I understand the heat and passion of competition at the highest levels. But we must all remember that strong bodies must be balanced with strong characters, and work toward that end. Our positions as role models demand it.”

Cohen may have put his finger on one of the key aspects in this now national debate. Some, generally the more conservative of Americans, feel sports figures don’t bear responsibility for their roles as role models. But as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “power must be linked with responsibility, and obliged to defend and justify itself within the framework of the general good.” In other words, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Watch: “Kobe Bryant Calls Ref A “Fucking Fag” On Camera (Video)

Kobe Bryant abdicated that responsibility when he was accused of adulterous rape in 2003, (reportedly, the charges were dropped when the victim refused to testify in public,) and did so again Tuesday night. Bryant had said his words “were not meant to offend anyone.” How could they have been meant to do anything but offend? (No one says, “fucking fag,” without looking to get a strong reaction.)

And they did offend. And worse than offend, they sent a strong message from a strong, national role model, that it’s OK to use anti-gay epithets when the chips are down.

What Bryant may have failed to understand the very moment he opened his mouth, is that like it or not, he is a role model to millions, especially millions of children. And in a split-second, caught on camera, he told those millions — adults and children alike — that it’s OK to denigrate, hate, and verbally abuse, gay men and lesbians, and bisexual and transgender folks.

The story itself took a life of its own, and The New Civil Rights Movement published a total of ten (this will be eleven) play-by-play articles, which drew a great many comments from all sides. But one reader may have said it best. “Kobe Bryant’s behaviour is more damaging to children than Janet Jackson’s boob. People need to realize that Bryant is the kind of role model that bullies look up to.”

Read: “USA Today Asks “Did Kobe’s Punishment Fit The Crime?” America Disappoints

Before Bryant’s “heartfelt,” actual apology, GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios put his concern in more professional terms, properly stating, “Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility. The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable.”

(To date, the L.A. Lakers organization has not commented, although NBA Commissioner David Stern did fine Bryant $100,000 — a powerful statement of condemnation, given the comparatively steep fine.)

But GLAAD’s and HRC’s messages — if they were even heard by more than a few — were lost on the madding crowd Wednesday. Many Internet comments supported Bryant. Of those, many were of the “gays are too sensitive” variety. Or, “gays need to calm down.” Or, “That term is used very loosely around the country everyday.” Or, “get over it.” Others blatantly supported the “fucking fag” term.

 


“If a young student was called the N-word every day for weeks or months on end, and after repeated cries for help finally took his own life, how quickly do you think citizens of all races would take to the streets to protest?”



 

Bryant, a 32-year old shooting guard, ultimately managed to call the president of the nation’s largest LGBT organization, the Human Rights Campaign, to offer what President Joe Solmonese described as a “heartfelt” apology. Solmonese, who in immediate response to Bryant’s Tuesday night slur had called it “a disgrace,” added two important caveats to his homage of Bryant’s apology.

“He told me that it’s never ok to degrade or tease, and that he understands how his words could unfortunately give the wrong impression that this is appropriate conduct,” and, “At the end of a difficult day, I applaud Kobe for coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions.”

These were important because Solmonese rightly knows he has a responsibility to help shape public opinion. And the public needed to know that Kobe Bryant thought he was wrong to call the referee a “fucking fag,” that Kobe Bryant was sorry, remorseful, regretful, and that Kobe Bryant wanted America to know “that it’s never ok to degrade or tease.”

Sadly, the message, trumpeted by HRC, was not equally amplified by Bryant, the Lakers, or the NBA. And sadly, nowhere do we have a direct quote that says, “I’m sorry and I was wrong. Don’t repeat my mistake, folks.”

Solmonese, while awaiting an apology prior to the Wednesday evening telephone conversation, had warned Bryant and the Lakers organization that “America is watching.”

And they were watching– but not so much for an apology as for how far the LGBT community would take this. After all, it was just a word and gays should get over it, right?

Wrong.

Words have power and, in the wake of the anti-gay bullying teen suicides America saw last fall, America needs to remember that. We know that words from role models on the basketball court, and from bullies on the street corner, have power, meaning, and in many cases, can kill.

There are an estimated 5,000 suicides by Americans aged 15-24 every year, and studies show LGBTQ teens are three times as likely to die by suicide than their heterosexual peers. Simple math tells us then that over 100 LGBTQ 15-24 year olds die by suicide every month.

Yet America was shocked in September 2010 when the media reported five teens died by suicide due to anti-gay bullying. At The New Civil Rights Movement we were able to uncover at least ten, knowing that was only ten percent of the story.

Read: “September’s Anti-Gay Bullying Suicides – There Were A Lot More Than 5

“If a young student was called the N-word every day for weeks or months on end, and after repeated cries for help finally took his own life, how quickly do you think citizens of all races would take to the streets to protest?,” asked Keli Goff, an African-American author, in October 2010, just after the rash of September anti-gay bullying suicides. Goff continued, asking, “Or better yet, how quickly would Al Sharpton and Co. demand accountability from the school and elected officials under the threat of casting the kind of media spotlight that people like Don Imus have nightmares about?”

“Which makes me think that the kids doing the bullying are not really the ones at fault,” she writes. “They are simply taking their cues from adults. And the message they are receiving is that today in 2010 it may not be okay to call someone the N-word on the playground, but it is okay to call someone the F-word.”

So what if Kobe Bryant’s “penalty” was not a $100,000 fine, but 100 hours spent counseling at-risk LGBTQ teens? Talk about a win-win-win. A win for LGBTQ teens, a win for Bryant, and a win for America, whose out-of-control media superstars would think twice before using anti-gay slurs publicly.

But America, by and large, has a very short-term memory and is not thinking about teen suicides. America is thinking that the LGBT community is too sensitive. America is thinking that, regardless of age, we should just roll with the punches. America is thinking Bryant’s “punishment,” a fine that amounts to about zero-point-zero-zero-two percent of his annual income, was too harsh.

 


“The problem we have now is because of the way we don’t address homophobia, the ultimate insult to a man is to tell them either they’re like a woman or worse, that they’re gay,” says John Amaechi, the first gay NBA star to come out.



 

How do we know? Ask your neighbors. Or, look at this USA Today online poll that as of this writing says that 53% of Americans think “a heartfelt apology should have been enough.” In other words, Kobe got the shaft. (Note the author’s phrase, “should have been enough,” as in, “How much more do you people want?”)

So, what explains this? Why does America think it’s OK to use hate speech and anti-gay slurs? In a word, prejudice. Dumb, unfounded, un-scientific, baseless prejudice. And it’s prejudice promulgated by some religious institutions, and by some “non-profit” anti-gay groups and anti-gay hate groups, like the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association, and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.

America, despite our slow but forward-moving embrace of same-sex marriage, despite our overwhelming support of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, still hasn’t had enough direct, personal experience with LGBT people.

I reached out to Clinton W. Anderson, PhD, the Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office, at the American Psychological Association. “Although many people have negative feelings and hostile attitudes toward homosexuality, no scientific research has ever found differences between lesbian, gay, or bisexual people and straight people that justify such prejudices,” Dr. Anderson told me, via email. He adds, “In fact, as straight people come to know gay people better, their prejudices decrease, which is exactly opposite of what would happen if the prejudices had some factual basis.”

Anderson says, “Similarly to members of other minority groups who are the targets of prejudice, many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience prejudicial acts, such as the use of epithets. Having to cope with such acts is a real psychological burden.” Quoting a CDC study, Anderson says this affects adversely LGBT students as well, noting, “lesbian, gay, and bisexual students in schools reported missing school due to fear, being threatened by other students, and having their property damaged at school more than heterosexual students did.”

Dr. Anderson says over time, “as straight people come to know gay people better, their prejudices decrease.” A great example of this is the defection last week of the National Organization for Marriage’s online and grassroots strategist, Louis Marinelli, who said he sees himself now as “a supporter of civil marriage equality,” after five years of working against the LGBT community, and says, “I agree that what the gay community are fighting for are their civil rights.”

Kobe Bryant merely said what was at the forefront of his mind when it searched for the meanest slur it could find in a moment of anger and “frustration.” And Kobe Bryant merely said what many Americans say every day, whether or not the subject of their frustration is a gay man, a lesbian, or a bisexual or transgender person — or not. “Fag,” or “faggot” is one of those words some people use to make themselves feel better, because portraying someone else as a second-class citizen, as “less-than,” makes some people feel better, and feel better about themselves.

The problem with what Kobe Bryant said is not so much that he said it, it’s that so many Americans say it every day, do not understand the damage words like that can cause, and do not see anything wrong with it.

“The problem we have now is because of the way we don’t address homophobia, the ultimate insult to a man is to tell them either they’re like a woman or worse, that they’re gay,” says John Amaechi, the first gay NBA star to come out, in an interview with USA Today Thursday.

Amaechi, an African-American, is now a psychologist who works with Fortune 250 companies. He adds, “We have to take it as unacceptable as a white person screaming the N-word at a black person. … I can tell you that I’ve been called a f——- fairly routinely, and yet people seem to hold off on calling me the N-word. We’ve got to mirror that progress.”

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‘Poisonous’: Former Advisor Says Republicans Have ‘Just Switched Trump Off in Their Brain’

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In an interview with The Guardian, one of Donald Trump’s former senior advisers stated that the word he is getting from people he has spoken to is that they want the former president to be put out to pasture after the poor midterm election results for Republicans weeks ago.

According to John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, it’s time for the GOP to move on from the former president if the party wants to reclaim the Oval Office in 2024.

Bolton, whose tenure serving under Trump ended acrimoniously, told the Guardian’s David Smith that there are a multitude of reasons to put Trump in the rearview mirror, but the impact that the former president had on GOP fortunes in the midterms seems to be the final straw with many conservatives.

“There are a lot of reasons to be against Trump being the nominee but the one I’m hearing now as I call around the country, talking to my supporters and others about what happened on 8 November, is the number of people who have just switched Trump off in their brain,” Bolton explained.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump’s new Mar-a-Lago scandal proves why aides want him to stick to a teleprompter

Elaborating, he continued, “Even if they loved his style, loved his approach, loved his policies, loved everything about him, they don’t want to lose and the fear is, given the results on 8 November, that if he got the nomination, not only would he lose the general election, but he would take an awful lot of Republican candidates down with him.”

“There’s no doubt Trump’s endorsement in the primary can be very valuable to a candidate in the Republican party. But relying on that endorsement or trumpeting yourself as the Trump-endorsed candidate is poisonous in the general election. So if you actually want to win elections, Trump is not the answer,” Bolton continued. “William F Buckley [the conservative author] once had a rule that in Republican primaries he supported the most conservative candidate capable of winning the general election and, under that theory, Trump loses.”

The Guardian’s Smith notes that Bolton “… joins Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, attorney general William Barr, UN ambassador Nikki Haley, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and onetime ally Chris Christie in a growing rebellion among alumni making the case – overtly or subtly – that Trump has become an electoral liability.”

You can read more here.

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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Trump’s Dinner With Kanye Also Included a Former Aide Accused in Pay-for-Pardon Play, and White Supremacist Fuentes

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Donald Trump‘s dinner earlier this week with antisemite Kanye West and holocaust denier and white supremacist Nick Fuentes may also have included two other right-wingers, hinted at by the former president himself.

After Axios‘ reporting confirmed that Fuentes had in fact had dinner with Trump, Trump issued a statement saying, “Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.”

But later, on Friday afternoon via his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote a defense of the dinner with an expanded guest list.

READ MORE: Trump Claims He ‘Knew Nothing About’ the White Supremacist Antisemite Who He and Kanye West Dined With at Mar-a-Lago

“This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump wrote. “Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. They then left for the airport.”

As The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman noted, Trump did not denounce his guest’s extremist beliefs.

“Three of his friends,” according to the far-right wing website Breitbart, apparently includes Fuentes, far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and former Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno.

Breitbart states, “two people who say they were at the dinner on Tuesday evening–Yiannopoulos and onetime Trump aide Karen Giorno–have publicly stated that Fuentes was in fact at the dinner with West and Trump.”

“’Nick attended the dinner and sat across from the president. I sat to the president’s right and Ye to his left,’ Giorno said in a statement to podcaster Tim Poole’s website Timcast,” Breitbart reports. “‘The president was by himself for dinner but invited Ye to meet some people on the patio.'”

Politico reports Giorno “confirmed to Politico that she was also at the dinner with Trump, West and Fuentes,” but does not mention Yiannopoulos as a dinner guest.

READ MORE: Watch: Chasten Buttigieg Says Tucker Carlson Is Focusing on ‘Hate’ After Host’s Latest Anti-Gay Attack on His Husband

Referring to Kanye West by his new name, VICE News adds: “Ye, who has been been on an antisemitic spiral in recent months, announced he is going to be running for president in 2024, and Yiannopoulos is his campaign manager. He claimed that he asked the former president to run with him as his vice-president. According to Ye, the dinner involving the billionaire, the rapper, and the white nationalist devolved into screaming and derogatory epithets.”

Yiannopoulos is the former Breitbart editor who became disgraced after saying, “I think in the gay world some of the most important, enriching and incredibly life-affirming, important shaping relationships very often between younger boys and older men.” Earlier this year U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene came under fire for hiring, as an intern, Yiannopoulos, even after he appeared to support sexual “relationships” between boys as young as 13 and older men.

Karen Giorno, The New York Times reported early last year, “had access to people around the president, having run Mr. Trump’s campaign in Florida during the 2016 primary and remaining on board as a senior political adviser during the general election.”

“In July 2018, Ms. Giorno signed an agreement with Mr. Kiriakou, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, ‘to seek a full pardon from President Donald Trump of his conviction’ for $50,000 and promised another $50,000 as a bonus if she secured a pardon,” The Times reports.

Kiriakou is John Kiriakou, who The Times identifies as “a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information.”

On what appears to be her Instagram page, Giorno has photos of herself with numerous Republicans, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mike Flynn, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida attorney general Ashley Moody and several other top Florida elected officials, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, and Sarah Palin, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump Claims He ‘Knew Nothing About’ the White Supremacist Antisemite Who He and Kanye West Dined With at Mar-a-Lago

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Donald Trump and Kanye West had dinner at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night and the disgraced artist who goes by “Ye” brought a guest, the white supremacist, antisemite and “America First” and “Big Lie” purveyor Nick Fuentes. Now the former president is claiming Fuentes was a guest of West, and he knows “nothing” about him.

“Trump’s direct engagement with a man labeled a ‘white supremacist’ by the Justice Department, one week after declaring his 2024 candidacy, is likely to draw renewed outrage over the former president’s embrace of extremists,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu report.

Axios notes that in a video West posted to his recently restored Twitter account, he says, “Trump was ‘really impressed’ with Fuentes because ‘unlike so many of the lawyers and so many people that he was left with on his 2020 campaign, he’s actually a loyalist.'”

“Ye, who has lost major sponsorships over his anti-Semitism and recent far-right associations, has said he wants to run for president in 2024,” Axios adds. “The rapper claims Trump started ‘screaming’ at him at the dinner and told him he would lose — ‘most perturbed’ by Ye asking Trump to be his running mate.”

READ MORE: Watch: Chasten Buttigieg Says Tucker Carlson Is Focusing on ‘Hate’ After Host’s Latest Anti-Gay Attack on His Husband

Swan says Trump issued a statement in response to his reporting, claiming he does not know Fuentes.

“Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago,” Trump’s statement says, an apparent attempt to minimize his dining with two racists and antisemites. “Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.”

The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman observes that Trump’s “statement does nothing to denounce that background, including Holocaust denialism, or even acknowledge it.”

Trump first claiming West just wanted to see Mar-a-Lago, but immediately after calling it a “meeting” is notable, given that West has since suggested he is running for president.

Axios importantly adds that “Fuentes first gained notoriety after attending the white supremacist ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in 2017,” and, “Trump was heavily criticized at the time for his response to the racist violence.”

Journalist Jeff Sharlet is the executive producer of Netflix’s “The Family,” based on his books that exposed the secretive Christian right organization of the same name. The Family, also called The Fellowship, hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Its members were involved in Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

Sharlet warns this is an “inflection point.”

“Trump dinner with Ye, at this point, is a major story,” Sharlet tweeted. “But with Nick Fuentes? That’s an inflection point even for a former president already committed to fascism.”

Journalist and activist Elad Nehorai tweeted: “Never let a single right winger or Republican claim they care about Jews after this. Fuentes openly praises Hitler. He is a Holocaust denier. He is one of the US’s most dangerous white nationalists. Trump hosted him & not one Republican had said a word.”

Attorney and former Republican Ron Filipkowski, who tracks and reports on right wing extremism, says Trump’s statement “reminds me of the time when Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was in the WH in Dec 2020 and said he was just there to check out the Christmas decorations.”

Tarrio told ABC News last year he “got invited to the White House Christmas decorations tour through ‘Latinos For Trump.'”

READ MORE: ‘Standard Bearer of Trumpism’ Marjorie Taylor Greene Bridges White Nationalism and the GOP

Top national security attorney Brad Moss mocked Trump’s claim about the Mar-a-Lago dinner.

“Trump legal team: MAL is a totally secure place where we can be trusted to store classified records,” he tweeted. “Trump PR team: Security at MAL is so lax that a raving white supremacist can just crash Trump’s dinner party with Ye.”

Indeed, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman commented, “It’s not the central issue with meeting with Fuentes, but the fact that people can show up unvetted and meet with Trump at his club is part of what alarmed the DOJ about his retention of government records, including classified material, when he left office.”

She also posted a screenshot from her book, relevant to Trump’s embrace of the two racists and antisemites. She quotes him saying, “A lot of these people vote,” in relation to “Trump’s refusal to condemn David Duke’s support forcefully in early 2016.”

The AntiDefamation League (ADL) in a 2021 report wrote, “Nicholas Fuentes is a white supremacist leader and organizer and podcaster who seeks to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP.”

Some of Fuentes’ antisemitism has been documented by ADL.

READ MORE: House GOP Whip Denies ‘Knowing Anything About’ Republican Congressman Fundraising With Antisemitic White Nationalist

“Fuentes has made a number of racist and antisemitic comments under the guise of being provocative and ironic,” ADLs report states. “For example, he has referred to Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh as ‘shabbos goy race traitor’ because he works for Jews (Ben Shapiro, a Jewish conservative, runs the Daily Wire). On a livestream episode, Fuentes ‘jokingly’ denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven. On May 24, 2021, Fuentes participated in a debate on right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones’ InfoWars with Robert Barnes, a man described as a ‘constitutional lawyer’ who has legally defended both Jones and Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. During the debate, Fuentes made numerous antisemitic remarks, including, ‘I don’t see Jews as Europeans and I don’t see them as part of Western civilization, particularly because they are not Christians.'”

Fuentes is strongly pro-Trump, as West alluded to.

“Fuentes promoted election fraud narratives and encouraged his adherents to participate in nationwide ‘Stop the Steal’ protests,” according to ADL.

 

This article has been updated to include Jeff Sharlet’s remarks.

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