Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Keeping that uneasy feeling

Rene Portland is gone. Homophobia is not. John Smallwood's column on the Portland resignation in The Philadelphia Daily News is titled "Portland case revives unease over lesbians in sport." But the unease was always there. I worry now that with Portland gone there will be the collective sigh of relief: "phew, now that's over." The only thing that leaves with Portland is the blatant, public homophobia. Mechelle Voepel is right when she notes that the Portland saga is over. But negative recruiting still continues and often the tactics used are homophobic--sometimes subtle, and sometimes more obvious. Smallwood reports hearing negative references to lesbianism wherever he goes. And the presence of lesbianism is frequently trotted out as an excuse for why women's sports are less popular.
And let's not forget that racism still permeates all sport--not just women's sport. Harris's lawsuit contained allegations of racism (and sexism) but the majority of the media coverage of the case and of Portland's resignation focused on the homophobia. Like homophobia, much of the racism in sport these days is pretty subtle and rarely discussed. But it is there. Just listen to commentators who describe black athletes using terms and adjectives that compare them to animals. (Last night a commentator repeatedly referred to LSU's Sylvia Fowles's hands as paws or large paws or massive paws.)
So yes, let's celebrate Portland's resignation but let's not forget we still have a long way to go.

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