Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Australian Olympian Tweets Homphobic Slur and Gets Dumped

Proving that homophobia does not pay, Jaguar ended its sponsorship of 3 times Australian Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice. 
Rice, 22, tweeted "Suck on that f--gots" after Australia's rugby union team, the Wallabies, defeated South Africa's Springboks on Saturday.

"I made a comment on Twitter on Saturday night in the excitement of the moment. I did not mean to cause offence and I apologize," she wrote in a blog on her website.

But Jaguar Australia general manager Kevin Goult announced that his company has withdrawn its sponsorship.

"Jaguar Australia today terminated its relationship with Stephanie Rice, who has been an ambassador for the Jaguar brand in Australia since the start of 2010," he said in a statement released late Monday.

A company spokeswoman confirmed the statement but declined to give any further details on the terms of Rice's agreement. Local media reported that Rice would be losing the late-model A$100,000-plus Jaguar that she has been driving since striking the deal. [source]
So far so good right?  It is about time that people learn that there is a cost for dehumanizing people.  Reading that it make me feel as though Jaguar had given the LGBT community a small victory. Good feeling however where very short lived when I read the commentary from Gold-winning Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham:
"I know she's not homophobic because we are good friends," he said. "It was just an extremely poor choice of words.

"Some people when they use that language don't realise they are causing offence. But it is an issue for a lot of gay people, who get quite upset about it because they have spent so long trying to change people's mentality about these things.

"I don't find that term very offensive because of my generation but other people do, and you have to consider everyone."

Mitcham, 22, said he had already forgiven Rice for her faux pas. Roberts called for Rice's sponsors to dump her.
I know that I am outside of the community, but I must say that it read very much to me like sell-out behaviour.  I have always noticed when someone says something racist, you can always start your stop watch to see how long it will be before someone is defending them.  Just think Whoopie and Mel Gibson, or the supposed man of God who had no problem with Duane Chapman AKA Dog the Bounty Hunters racist tirade. Of course, these people get thanks from the dominant bodies, because they don't really want to be held accountable for their actions.

How can you not know that you are being offensive when you say a slur?  This is even worse in my opinion, because it was not an excited utterance. The woman sat down, logged onto tweeter and then typed out her homophobic message. F@aggot is not some obscure term and the LGBT community have made it more than clear that this word is considered to be a slur. The very notion that a straight person does not know they are being offensive when they use the word f@ggot is ridiculous.

Mitcham may not think that his friend is homophobic, but what she said was far more than "an unfortunate choice of words."  If he wanted to avoid calling her a homophobe outright, he could have simply stated that what she tweeted was homophobic, though I don't think that splitting hairs is necessary.  Maya Angelou once famously said, "when people show you who they are believe them the first time." 

As an outsider it was interesting but sad to see that no matter the community, someone is always interested in propping up the oppressor to the detriment of their own community. You don't elevate yourself or your cause by going into denial when someone says something hurtful, you only look like a sell-out.  The only way to fight hatred is stand up and say that it is wrong and that you deserve to be treated with basic human decency.  I suppose the potential pat on the head from the oppressor is just too much to pass up for some people.