Saturday, August 1, 2009

University of Hawaii Football Coach Uses Anti-Gay Slur at Press Conference

Is anyone surprised to hear that a football coach used an anti-gay slur to make fun of an opponent? That’s what University of Hawaii football coach Greg McMackin did at a press conference last week. You can read about it here. Calling an opponent a “faggot” is a time honored tradition in men’s sports. Coaches also use anti-gay and anti-woman slurs to insult their own players into performing better on the field. After all, what could be worse for a man or a boy than to be called “fag” or a girl. Everyone knows they don’t belong in sport, right?

I suspect that Coach McMackin, like way too many coaches, uses this insult in the locker room and on the field with some frequency. I believe this because I don’t think this kind of language is likely to slip out in a press conference unless it is something you say without giving it much thought in other less public contexts. McMackin was trying to be funny, he said later. Fag jokes are always a good laugh, right?

McMackin is not laughing now. This is the part of this story that does surprise me. The University of Hawaii suspended McMackin for 30 days and cut his pay. He is also required to participate in awareness training and take some leadership in training others about the negative effects of anti-gay slurs. Both the university chancellor and the athletic director soundly and publicly condemned his language. The Western Athletic Conference, of which Hawaii is a member, has not decided whether to take action against McMackin. McMackin also made a tearful public apology for his actions at the press conference.

It is encouraging and refreshing that University of Hawaii leaders have taken such strong and immediate action. They set a terrific example for other school administrators whose response to far more egregious violations of university rules, values or policies by athletic personnel is timid or apologetic. It is particularly surprising because football coaches, especially in Division 1 programs, are often so powerful that they are not held accountable for unacceptable behavior for which other school employees are.

Strong administrative action and enforcement of policy are important aspects of successfully addressing LGBT issues in athletics, whether it is anti-gay slurs used by coaches, negative recruiting, firing gay and lesbian coaches or dismissing gay or lesbian athletes from teams. Unless administrators are willing to educate athletic staff and impose sanctions when coaches cross the line, the policies are meaningless.


LZ Granderson
makes another terrific point about this incident by calling the reporters at the press conference to task for their reactions to McMackin. If you listen to the audio of the press conference, you can hear the reporters laughing when McMackin uses the anti-gay slur. They snigger like Bevis and Butthead every time he says it. That’s professional, right?

As a side bar: About 10 years ago, the University of Hawaii changed their mascot from the Rainbow Warriors to the Warriors. At the time, the previous athletic director told reporters that part of the reason for changing the mascot was that the athletic program did not want to be associated with the rainbow flag used as a symbol for gay and lesbian groups. They’ve come a long way at the University of Hawaii and I hope coaches and athletic directors everywhere are watching.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

ESPN.com's Graham Watson argues that the action by the university isn't all that strong.
McMackin will still be training the team, even if it's for free for 30 days. And he is quoted by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin saying he would gladly take a pay cut to help the athletic department. And that was before his comments.
So I'm not sure about the severity of actions taken by the university.

Anonymous said...

If it's only his pride that was hurt, that's OK. The University did a good thing; I don't care if the coach (like most D1 FB coaches) doesn't feel the sting of the suspension because he makes enough $$$ to not work for 3 years without harming his ability to live well.
Go Rainbow Warriors!
(the rainbow is only honorary, but you've earned it!)

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