Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ESPN “Fist Kiss” Ad Not Funny

First, check out this ESPN ad featuring Shaquille O’Neal.

Second, you need to know that ESPN received a lot of flak for the ad from GLAAD and others and has already pulled the ad and apologized for it. Outsports, ever the contrarians on these matters, did not see the ad as homophobic. I do not get this take on it at all. The entire basis for the joke is the perception that a “fist kiss” between two men is disgusting.

When I first read about this ad I was not going to write about it. I am so sick and tired of these homophobic sports related advertisements aimed at men. It is beyond me how anyone can say there is no homophobic intent in this ad. Shaq is completely disgusted by the “fist kiss” and physically moves away from Mike Breen. Could there be any other basis for the “humor” in this ad besides the gay connotation of a fist kiss between two men? I suspect we will now have a rash of male athletes saying “no homo” following every fist bump celebration during a game. Call me oversensitive. Tell me I don’t have a sense of humor. Bull Twang.

Ads like these, in addition to being offensive to gay people, are also insulting to all men. Do advertising firms and the makers of the products they try to sell to men really have such an adolescent perception of them? These ads are really stupid. That is one of my main objections to them. The other is I am appalled by the casual message of disgust and hate they promote. For Pete’s sake, if it isn’t demeaning images of women, it’s demeaning images of gay men. Is that all they think straight men respond to?

Don’t even get me started on how dangerous these ads are for adolescent boys whether black or white (or girls for that matter) who see Shaq as a role model or who are still trying to figure out who they are and what they believe. When the GLSEN School Climate survey tells us how hostile schools still are toward LGBT youth, there is no way I can see how anyone with any social consciousness can look at ads like this and laugh. Then there is the whole racial angle. Shaq plays right into the stereotype that Black male athletes are homophobic.

I’m disappointed in Shaq. He has always talked like an ally, expressing acceptance or at least tolerance for the possibility of having gay teammates. I don’t see how he could be an ally and consent to participate in this ad.

Thank you, ESPN, for pulling the ad and apologizing for it. The next time someone comes up with a stupid, homophobic ad idea like this one, kill it before you embarrass yourself again.

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