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NBA Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard and rising superstar Anthony Edwards has apologized for comments made Sunday on his Instagram story.
With over 1.2m IG followers, Edwards posted a story in which he observes a group of men standing outside before saying in part, “Look at these queer-a– ni–as.”
Later on Sunday, he issued an apology:
While Edwards apologized, without specifying which word was considered offensive, most media outlets have determined it was in reference to the first word and not the third.
An argument can be made that the words he used reflects the environment in which he was born into and continues to represent. Young men like Edwards without access, edification and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community have long used derogatory words to simply label people they don’t know, summarizing another person’s entire humanity into a short and hurtful description that often mirrors the very dismissive tone used against Black people for centuries.
Much like Kendrick Lamar admits in Auntie Diaries, he, like Anthony Edwards used similar words as a young boy which were rooted in ignorance. Lamar says, “Back when it was comedic relief to say “Fa–ot, fa–ot, fa–ot, we ain’t know no better, Elementary kids with no filter.”
Though inexcusable from childhood to the present, hurtful words have hurtful meaning and those who use them with elevated platforms, like young NBA hoopers, can build or destroy their reputation in the blink of an eye or the press of a ‘send’ button.
In America, outwardly used offensive terms toward the LGBTQIA+ community are universally regarded as toxic and in most cases, celebrities who are found guilty of spewing hate speech in the court of public opinion often apologize just as Edwards has done, however, words that are offensive to Black folks are routinely tolerated and swept underneath America’s mountainous dirty rug.
And while the 22-year-old Edwards offensive language cannot be ignored, neither can the fact that 55-year-old Joe Rogan once again participated in this weekend’s UFC 279 as a commentator.
Earlier this year, multiple clips of Rogan using “ni–er” were circulated around social media and after he apologized for the many many instances of using the most hateful slur invented (while never in the presence of a Black person), he was and still is allowed to provide commentary on the UFC and interview its competitors.
“I know that to most people, there’s no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now,” Rogan said in part during an apology posted to Instagram. “I haven’t said it in years,” he added.
Mel Gibson, yet another racist UFC fan, has an upcoming movie as most have either forgotten, forgiven, or never cared that he once left a violent voicemail to an ex-lover, saying partly, “If you get raped by a pack of ni–ers, it will be your fault.”
Former NFL Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is another prime example, a man who less than one year ago, disgracefully resigned from that role after it was discovered he too made racist and anti-gay comments. However, in recent weeks, Gruden has reemerged and even made several quotes about now being ready for his next coaching job after issuing a standard copy-and-pasted apology.
We live in a world of nuance and understanding that two things can be true at the same time. It can be acknowledged that “what aboutism” doesn’t help any conversation move forward, and it should also be noted that men like Rogan, Gruden or Gibson should not be allowed to simply apologize or let time simmer just long enough before moving right along with their regularly scheduled career ambitions.
Like those men, Anthony Edwards too apologized for his words, yet, the language he describes as “hurtful” only pertained to one word in this three-word sentence. Until ni–er is carried with the same weight of homophobic slurs, there will consistently be an imbalance in the type of justice we see in America. Until those who offend Black people are held accountable beyond slaps on the wrist, young men like Edwards and old men like Gruden will continue to feel comfortable using words that reflect the environments they come from and sadly the lack of tolerance still presently there.