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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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AOC Slams Anti-Biden Efforts: ‘My Community Does Not Have the Option to Lose’

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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most-powerful voices in the House Democratic caucus, re-asserted her support for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as some congressional Democrats along with pundits, pollsters, and strategists have called on the President to quit his campaign.

The 34-year-old progressive New York Democrat in a nearly hour-long live video recorded after midnight declared her opposition to those proposing an “open convention,” where the Democratic nominee fro president would be decided, despite the 2024 primaries which Biden and Harris won. She blasted the numerous Democrats anonymously calling for Biden to end his campaign, and slammed those who have little to lose who appear to be behind the movement to oust the President, and those who have already concluded the Democrats cannot win.

“I will say, what upsets me is people saying, ‘we will lose.’ ”

“For me,” she continued, before taking a long, thoughtful pause, “I don’t care who – to a certain extent – I don’t care what name is on there. We are not losing.”

READ MORE: House Dem Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Hispanic Caucus Campaign Arm Rally Behind Biden

“I’m about you, but my community does not have the option to lose. My community does not have the luxury of accepting loss in July,” she said before stressing, “of an election year.”

“Like, my people are the first ones deported. They’re the first ones put in Rikers,” she continued, referring to the infamous New York City jail. “They’re the first ones whose families are killed by war. And this is horrific. I’m not here to like say everything is amazing. Okay, I’m not here to say that like, oh, you know, to lie to people. What I am here to say is that we need to live, we need to make decisions in the conditions that we have before us.”

“Most of the Ocasio-Cortez’s nearly hour-long Live session focused on the risks of forcing Biden to step aside, including potential legal challenges from Republicans and ballot access deadlines in various states. ‘I have not seen a scenario, an alternative scenario, that I feel does not set us up for enormous peril,’ she said,” Business Insider reported.

“If you’re falling out of a coconut tree, God bless you,” she said. “If you’re riding with the President, God bless. I’m not an open-convention person. I think that is crazy.”

READ MORE: ‘Unmitigated Disaster’: Conservatives Stunned by ‘Clinically-Insane Trump Speech’

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez also made headlines by pointing out that she believes if President Biden were to step aside, Vice President Kamala Harris would also be targeted by some of the same Democrats trying to oust the President.

“I’m just going to say it: If you think that there is consensus among the people who want Joe Biden to leave… that they will support Kamala, Vice President Harris, you would be mistaken,” she added. “They are interested in removing the whole ticket.”

To those Democrats leaking opinions or being quoted anonymously, she had a few strong words.

“That’s b*llsh*t. If you have an opinion, say it with your chest and say it in public,” she said. “That’s a bunch of horsesh*t.”

Her Instagram Live remarks have over 80,000 likes and 6000 comments.

What her full video and the short clip above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Stop the Attacks’: 1400 Black Women Leaders Demand DNC Support Biden and Harris

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House Dem Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Hispanic Caucus Campaign Arm Rally Behind Biden

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Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, in line to become Speaker if Democrats retake the House in November, Friday morning told reporters the presidential ticket has not changed and he believes President Joe Biden is capable of doing the job and winning re-election.

Jeffries’ remarks come amid calls for President Biden to exit the re-election campaign, largely from the “Democratic machine,” including pundits, strategists, and pollsters, along with some Democratic members of the House and Senate.

“President Biden, as I’ve said repeatedly, is our nominee,” Leader Jeffries said in Brooklyn Friday morning, according to video (below) posted by WNBC-TV managing editor Steven Bognar. “He has a tremendous track record of success. He’s one of the most accomplished American presidents in our history. And, he has the vision, I believe the ability, the capacity and the track record to make a case to the American people that will result in us being successful in November.”

“I’ve answered that question repeatedly over the last three weeks,” Jeffries also told reporters, as NBC 4 reported. “I’ve answered that question repeatedly, my answer has not changed.”

Also Friday morning the congressional arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus announced its endorsement of the President’s re-election bid.

READ MORE: ‘Stop the Attacks’: 1400 Black Women Leaders Demand DNC Support Biden and Harris

“The fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Bold PAC, has endorsed President Joe Biden for re-election, the Biden campaign said in a statement on Friday,” Reuters reports.

Forbes reported last week, “Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., chair of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, expressed support for President Joe Biden, bolstering Biden’s argument that his base is still behind him amid calls for him to step aside in the race.”

Also last week, The Washington Post reported, “Black House Democrats embrace Biden at another critical juncture.”

“The importance of the roughly 60-member Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) — which includes [Rep. James] Clyburn and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) — was on display Monday night as Biden met with the bloc in a Zoom call, the first with a group of elected lawmakers. The message that many Black Democrats planned to convey to Biden, according to the people familiar with the CBC’s thinking: We will stick by you as we always have.”

READ MORE: ‘Unmitigated Disaster’: Conservatives Stunned by ‘Clinically-Insane Trump Speech’

Congressman Clyburn, who was instrumental in Biden winning the Democratic nomination in 2020, and the election, “has said publicly that he is firmly behind Biden but open to embracing Vice President Harris filling the role if Biden steps aside,” The Post reported.

But while last week the paper noted, “not a single Black House Democrat has defected,” Friday morning one member of the CBC did. U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) became the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to break ranks, as Punchbowl News’ Max Cohen reported.

MSNBC reports on Friday a total of six members of the U.S. House and one U.S. Senator called on President Biden to exit the race.

Watch video of Democratic Leader Jeffries from Friday below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Democratic Machine’ Strategists Behind Move to Oust Biden: Ex-Congressman

 

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‘Unmitigated Disaster’: Conservatives Stunned by ‘Clinically-Insane Trump Speech’

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The fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Thursday is being panned by pundits, political strategists, grassroots voters, and even some in the press, as many express shock and condemnation over Donald Trump’s presidential nomination acceptance speech, or, as one critic put it, the “clinically-insane Trump speech.”

Chris Wallace, the former long-time Fox News anchor turned CNN commentator declared he was “disappointed,” and suggested Trump’s 90+ minute speech (transcript) helped President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign.

Trump’s speech got off to a good start, Wallace said, but after awhile the GOP nominee, “couldn’t keep up the act, and so we started hearing about ‘crazy Nancy Pelosi,’ and cheating on elections, and talking about Biden. Frankly, it was a long speech, it was a rambling speech, it was a speech by an older man and I couldn’t help but think that the people who are going to be happiest tonight are not the people at Trump headquarters, but the Democrats, maybe at Biden headquarters, maybe at the headquarters of the people who think they are going to replace Joe Biden, but Jake, we have ourselves a presidential campaign again.”

READ MORE: ‘Stop the Attacks’: 1400 Black Women Leaders Demand DNC Support Biden and Harris

CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale reported Trump delivered at least 22 “falsehoods” during his remarks, including that when he left office, “the world was at peace.”


Even The New York Times, which critics say has often ignored or whitewashed Trump’s worst remarks and weaknesses while focusing on President Biden’s – to the point of calling for Biden’s exit but not Trump’s – ran this headline overnight, invoking the ex-president’s 2017 inauguration speech: “Trump Struggles to Turn the Page on ‘American Carnage’.”

“On the last night of the G.O.P. convention on Thursday, Donald J. Trump promised to bridge political divides, and then returned to delighting in deepening them,” the paper of record reported.

Meanwhile, conservatives – former Republicans and current, Never-Trump Republicans – led the criticism on social media Thursday night and into Friday morning.

The Lincoln Project’s Stuart Stevens, a top political strategist and former Republican, panned Thursday night’s GOP convention: “A man who beat his wife introduced a Republican nominee found liable of sexual assault the judge called rape. And the Republican Party thinks it’s great.”

“I’ve watched thousands of political speeches in thirty years in the business. This was by far the worst,” observed Mike Madrid, the Latino GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, calling it “an unmitigated disaster.”

“Is anyone else seeing this with their own eyes?” Madrid asked on social media, referring to Trump’s speech. “Maybe, just maybe, this is what independent voters saw at the debate.”

“The [media’s] gonna call for his withdrawal after witnessing this obvious cognitive decline right?” Madrid also asked.

READ MORE: ‘Democratic Machine’ Strategists Behind Move to Oust Biden: Ex-Congressman

He summed it up in one word: “Fiasco.”

Former Republican U.S. Congressman Denver Riggleman declared: “Media should demand Trump step down based on mental issues and incoherence.”

Fred Wellman, the former Lincoln Project executive director had a few words for top Democratic donors dissatisfied with President Joe Biden: “Hey Democratic big donors! Shut up and get back to work. Jesus. We are going to beat this loser like a drum.”

“The View” co-host Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, a Republican who opposes Donald Trump wrote: “If this clinically-insane Trump speech does not get Democrats out of their defeatist doldrums, and focused and energized around electing their nominee -instead of tearing him down- I don’t know what will.”

She added, “And you all are screaming that Biden has dementia….?”

Former Republican Rick Wilson, an award-winning political TV ad expert and Lincoln Project co-founder decimated Trump’s speech and invoked the nominee’s top campaign chiefs:

“Trump’s speech was, objectively, the single worst convention acceptance speech in modern history. It was a ramblefuck disaster from start to its long-delayed finish, and nothing is going to make it better. You know. I know it. LaCivita and Wiles know it. Utter disaster.”

Former Republican U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh added, “And one more thing: I don’t want to hear anyone in the media talk about Biden’s cognitive decline without also talking about Trump’s cognitive decline. Thanks.”

Republican Sarah Longwell, a political strategist and publisher of the conservative news and opinion site The Bulwark, commented throughout Trump’s speech.

“What would [you] say this speech is about?” she asked toward the end. Minutes earlier she remarked, “Rambling man.” And: “I dunno, this weirdo seems pretty beatable.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Have to Stop This Psychopath’: Conway Launches PAC Focused on Trump ‘Mental Instability’

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