Considering the hyper-masculine nature of professional sports, it’s no surprise that the NBA (as well as the MLB, NFL, and NHL) hasn’t made anything resembling a big stride in regard to the established culture of homophobia. Openness toward sexual preference isn’t really an issue that can be tackled through a top-down approach, meaning that even if David Stern wanted to address the issue on a league-wide scale, it may not do much at all to influence the day-to-day actions of players, coaches, and front office types. He wouldn’t be banning steroids, “thug” attire, or evens straw-chewing, but…well, I’m not even sure what Stern could ban. Contemporary social issues are so difficult to address not only because of the lack of bright lines or consensus, but also because hardly anything is tangible in a way that it can be “legislated” away.
But it’s imperative that the NBA and the teams within it take steps toward acceptance, if not for the sake of personal identity and expression (which have become the most captivating things about the league and its players), then at least to be on par with the rest of corporate America. There are no openly gay players in the NBA, nor has there ever been (aside from John Amaechi, who announced his sexual orientation after he had already left the league). That’s a shocking testament not necessarily to the process of player selection — though it very well could be — but to the anticipated backlash an openly gay player might receive.
So the best thing to do is to take baby steps. Efforts by anyone in a position of power in the NBA to raise awareness, teach acceptance, and inform. That’s exactly what the Golden State Warriors are doing on March 11th, when they’ll sponsor an LGBT night at Oracle Arena, in which all proceeds will go to the San Francisco-based Positive Resource Center, a multi-purpose initiative to help those living with (or at risk for) HIV/AIDS. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s something.
Matt Moore, writing at FanHouse, tackles the implications further:
That these events are being held shows a a social awareness and proactive approach by the NBA and its teams, which is important. They’re not going to solve any problems with ignorance or discrimination on their own, but it does set a precedent which says something in and of itself. It’s a token, but that’s better than outright ignorance of a community. While we’re a long way away from an openly gay player in the league, it’s at least some small comfort to know there are forces working that aren’t opposed to certain societal pushes. The league has a responsibility to act not only as an entertainer but an educator, and these kinds of promotions provide those opportunities.