Anthony Edwards is undoubtedly a rising star in the NBA. He was the 2020 first overall pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged more than 25 points per game in last season’s playoffs. Edwards even brought his star power to the big screen in a LeBron James production, Hustle, as basketball player Kermit Wilts.
But recently, Edwards traded trashy on-screen language for homophobic language in real life, which he posted to his 1.2 million Instagram followers. On Sunday, he tweeted an apology, saying his remarks were “immature, hurtful and disrespectful”. No doubt Edwards can play basketball, but what kind of man, role model or leader is he? What measures should be taken to discourage this kind of behavior in the NBA and in the sports world at large?
As an NFL player, I’ve been in the locker room with some of the toughest, strongest, most dedicated people on the planet. I know firsthand that being an elite athlete comes at a cost: countless hours of training, relentless film studies, and the looming possibility of injury. But this should never be done at the expense of respect for others.
I don’t know what type of man Edwards is – no one really knows except Edwards himself and those close to him. But I know that as a professional athlete, role model, teammate and leader, your actions will reach more people than most of us.
Edwards is only 21, and youth is often used as an excuse for the kind of shameful behavior he displayed on Instagram. But I offer this perspective: there is never an age that justifies hatred, homophobia, racism, misogyny or bigotry of any kind. As for what he should do next to redeem himself, apologizing and hoping the incident will be forgotten is not enough. Time does not erode homophobia: Edwards must take conscious and concrete steps to rectify his actions. LeBron James was drafted out of high school and not only became one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but also managed to grab headlines for his accomplishments, activism and business efforts, rather than for the insults he could have peddled on social networks. if he had acted like Edwards. LeBron, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson before him, solidified his legacy on and off the court, which I hope Edwards thinks about now.
The Timberwolves released a statement Monday with the usual platitudes about being “inclusive” and “welcoming.” And we can only assume that Edwards’ punishment will be akin to the $50,000 fine imposed on Kevin Durant after his disturbing, homophobic and misogynistic rant last year. But, if that turns out to be the punishment, is that enough? The Timberwolves will pay Edwards $10.7 million this season: $50,000 for him is like a $100 parking ticket for the rest of us. A fine would be little more than a band-aid: a quick fix that probably won’t make any difference to Edwards, who will still be available to play for the Timberwolves. If a simple fine is imposed, Edwards and his team will take priority over the countless LGBTQ+ people who are directly suffering from the corrosive feelings perpetuated and reinforced by his Instagram post.
As a professional athlete, I know how hard it is to get to the top and stay there. So it really pains me to say that Edwards’ basketball career as well as his bank account should be affected by his actions, even if it’s only a minimal disruption. A suspension, fine, and donation to LGBTQ+ organizations of his choosing would send a message to the community that the NBA and its athletes are committed to being as inclusive as possible. It would also show other top male athletes that there is no room for homophobia. Edwards choosing the organization he donates to would be a great opportunity for him to connect with his LGBTQ+ fans in a genuine and compassionate way. It would also allow him to continue his education and his alliance by meeting LGBTQ+ people and discovering that we are like everyone else – sports fans, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers – rather than people we don’t like. mock on social media.
Only time will tell if Edwards’ apology means anything. If he truly cares about those he hurt, the message he carried on, and the direction of his legacy. Or if he and the NBA are only concerned with reactive apologies and meaningless fines.
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