Alex Blaze

Is sorry enough?

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 03, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: ESPN, faggot, football game, gay slurs, Greg McMackin, Hawaii, Honolulu, pay cut, school, suspended, university, university of hawaii

Have you seen this video of University of Hawaii football coach Greg McMackin sobbing an apology for using the word "faggot" three times while talking about Notre Dame's football program?

I'm surprised by this, and I'm sure McMackin is as well. I did sports in high school and junior high, had coaches who seemed like nice people but just couldn't hold back the misogynist and homophobic remarks. It was as much a part of coaching as making us run laps.

But apparently that era's coming to an end.

I watched an inordinate amount of ESPN this past week while working at the USGA Senior Open (weird experience, I'll probably have a post on that later), and I was surprised by the hard line the commentators on that channel took against this coach. They have this one gabfest program with 5 gasbags discussing sports news, and they were each trying to one-up each other on just how harsh the University should be to this coach.

Their sensitivity to this issue is appropriate for their personal interests. Besides the intended insult to Notre Dame, McMackin insulted gay people everywhere with his remark, and he only reinforced the stereotype that all people into sports are fag-hating he-men who need to prove their masculinity by tearing others down. It keeps a significant sector of potential fans away from the games and will only ostracize the more traditionally heteromasculine games, like football, as society changes.

Watching that video, though, I get the impression that this guy didn't know the rules had changed. Whether he is homophobic or not (I'd put my money on "yes"), this guy probably thought he was a decent human being, a "nice" person, and that his actions were generally acceptable. Football's a man's sport, and calling a rival "faggots" is about as mean as one can be. It was all a part of the show, and the journalists were just supposed to eat it up.

Well, he miscalculated, and now it's going to cost him. Not just in terms of pay (I'm not going to care about a 7% cut in an estimated $1.1 million salary considering the fact that the top tax bracket is paying much less in federal income tax than they historically have been paying and, even if we went back to Eisenhower-era levels and he were paying upwards of 90% on income over $200K, he'd still be making much more than he needs to live a comfortable life. His salary is especially outrageous when considering there are other folks at universities, like adjunct professors and cleaning and food staff, who aren't even making a living wage), but in terms of reputation. He's the sacrificial lamb that the industry is going to use to show how much they're progressing.

Of course, some in the community aren't satisfied. Here's a comment from The Advocate that I think is representative of quite a few that I've read:

Suspended? Pay cut? Why wasn't he fired? If he had used the "N" word, would he be suspended or would he be fired? Why is it that we still accept being treated as second class citizens? Shame on us for not insisting this man be fired.

Well, this person is right, the n-word is considered so insanely terrible that he probably would have been fired for saying it (although the implication that black people aren't still treated as second-class citizens is laughably false).

But I don't know if we want to go down that road. There are quire a few white racists who let themselves off the hook when it comes to racism because they don't use the n-word and have never personally lynched anyone. To them, as long as they aren't one of those terrible racists from the history books, then they're fine. More than fine - if you call them out for being racist or even try to discuss a racial issue with them, they consider it a personal offense. How dare you question my generosity to black people; I've never used the n-word!

I'd rather have that not happen when it comes to homophobia, and, for a variety of reasons, I don't think it will. And I'm sure McMackin at least learned to keep his comments about faggots to himself, but I'd rather that word not become so terrible that people can feel good about themselves for not using it. Forcing this guy to publicly go through the motions of introspection when it comes to homophobia will do a lot more good than just firing him.

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My understanding is that the coach will be doing some PSA's about homophobia. I think coming from someone like him, this has the potential for doing more good than firing him would.

On this one, I sort of agree with Alex. There are lots of racists and homophobes who know they are (as well as those who convince themselves they are not), but who know they can't get away, in polite society, using the "N" word. We're not there yet with the "F" word, but obviously moving in that direction. The point is, you don't cause people to change their feelings just because society makes it unacceptable to use a certain word.

I agree, if he'd used the "N" word, he'd be out. On the other hand, I thought his apology was genuine. I think he used the word because he grew up using the word, just as some people grew up using the "N" word. That doesn't excuse it, but it means that it sometimes just comes out without thinking about it.

If this guy got fired for it, he might feel he has a good reason to internalize some level of hate towards gay people. If he has to learn new behavior, and has to work with some gay people now, he might actually learn to feel differently about lgbt people...and that's better than just realizing you can no longer use the "F" word either.

I agree with Tony. I'm not convinced yet by his apology, but if he continues to show a commitment to understanding why what he said was unacceptable and to educate others about the issue, that would be truly impressive.

I dislike the financial sanctions, coming from a poor background. There's something about touching a person's livelihood (whether you agree with the salary or not) that upsets me, given my past rough relationship with banks who only let you know of x/y fines and fees after you had committed the infraction.

They could've simply given him a reprimand and pressured him to voluntarily donate and work on PSA's/orientation/etc without a suspension. When straight people close to the coach and athletics at the university watch this, I just get the feeling that they will resent the LGBT community with "they made this nice man cry and went after his job/money".

It's about time that this era came to an end and his consequences ought to be whatever they would have been had he said the "N" word three times

Chitown Kev | August 3, 2009 4:00 PM

This is a step but as I have stated elsewhere it will take a more profound cultural moment before the "f-word" is on par with the "n-word" in terms of the vileness of merely saying it the popular culture.

The cult in McMackin's salary and his filming of PSA is a step in the right direction (as was the Isiah Washington episode) but, as with the "n-word" it will need a cultural moment of a far greater impact.

Remember, we only say the n-word because of the OJ Simpson case. The n-word could regularly be heard on television in the 70's and even into the 80's.

Rick Sours | August 3, 2009 5:02 PM

I must be honest, I believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. I feel strongly in diversity and feel there should be zero tolerance for verb slang/slurs based on a group one belongs to.

That being said I have serious problems with anti-Gay slurs verbalized in public. To someone who is a memeber of the LBGT community, what was said is serious and extremely hurtful.

I cannot help but feel if a slug/slang had been shouted at someone who was Jewish, female, Hispanic, African-American; it would have been dealt with differently. Discrimination is when an individual or group is treated differently.

I know it is difficult for some to totally comprehend just how it feels to be in places we considered safe, open and welcoming but then have serious doubts.

Of course, all of this is coming out of the University of Hawaii which changed its mascot for football to "Warriors" from "Rainbow Warriors" because, reportedly, rainbows are "gay":

It would appear that tolerance isn't the only thing not being taught at the U of H:

i'd forgotten about the rainbow warriors - thanks for the memory, kathryn.

i have to say it's a shame to use euphemisms all the time - "n" word is "nigger" and "f" word is faggot. using the words in context isn't necessarily a slur, and isn't a faggot a burning stick, anyway? honestly, one of the best books i ever read, which influenced me as a teenager, was Dick Gregory's autobiography, which was entitled "Nigger." i suppose if someone gay came out with a similar autobiography, it might defuse the word a little bit - not make it acceptable, but perhaps make it less of a pejorative.

alex, you're right - firing the guy wouldn't have changed much, but since he now has to do penance he might learn a few things. i wouldn't be surprised to find out that one or more of his "warriors" is gay, either. wouldn't that wake him up for a minute at least?

the "gasbags" on espn will at least keep the fires burning to the point that (perhaps) we won't have so many slur-ridden press conferences in the future.

I remember playing football in HS in Houston Texas. None of our coaches ever used a homophobic remark in my presence and only one did say anything that could be construed as transphobic and that was concerning a kid who was a mountain and already knew that he was a bit on the feminine side of things and the kid was there and made those jokes himself sometimes. Occasionally they would say sexist things. This was, early 80s.
When I was still competing in martial arts tournaments at a pro level my coach never made any sexists, homophobic or transphobic remarks in class. He would occasionally joke around in private but it wasn't denigrating just noting whomever I was dating and my proclivity to go dancing nightly.
There are certainly some excellent coaches out there but not all of them and there have always been a some who are good and do not do these things.