Anti-gay running back Larry Johnson found himself out of a job Monday morning after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs for "conduct detrimental to the club."
Last month, Johnson's affinity for anti-gay slurs, first in a hate-filled tweet and again to reporters in the locker room, prompted a widespread petition demanding he get the boot. And while he was already in hot water for insubordinate behavior toward his coach, pressure over his homophobic language clearly contributed to the decision to fire him. Chalk up one victory against the culture of homophobia in sports!
In fact, the Larry Johnson episode has sparked a vital dialogue for audiences that aren’t typically faced with gay interactions. Perhaps this saga will educate the sports world on the dangers of hate speech, like it educated Johnson’s agent Peter Schaffer. Initially perplexed by the hullabaloo surrounding Johnson’s comments, he and his client now know that the F-word is off limits. “I'm learning that there's a segment of our society that finds [f**] offensive and that it should not be used,” Schaffer explained.
Schaffer’s shocking ignorance was balanced out by the refreshing comments of Larry Johnson’s father, who proclaimed that he raised his son to be respectful of all people and to know that hate speech is not tolerated. Johnson Sr. hopes that his son is not defined as a bigot for the rest of his career –- but that's exactly what will happen unless Junior makes significant changes in his personal conduct.
Johnson will probably be snatched up by another team in a matter of days. Here’s hoping that he treats his new situation as an opportunity to be the man his father hoped he would be. Perhaps he will follow the path of retired NBA all-star Tim Hardaway, who progressed from his “I hate gay people” diatribe to eventually hosting a fundraiser to combat teen suicide in the gay community.
Here's hoping this scandal will create another unlikely ally in the journey toward openness and acceptance for LGBT people in the professional sports world.
(Photo courtesy of nfl_mitchell's Photobucket)