For some reason, Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon has inserted himself into the discussion surrounding Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards’ homophobic remarks during an Instagram video he posted.
After Edwards’ anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric in the video, he tweeted an apology and was fined $40,000 for using offensive and derogatory language on social media the NBA announced on Tuesday. Following the press release of Edward’s fine, Gordon tweeted three ‘thumbs down’ emojis before deleting the tweet soon after.
It is hard to takeaway anything meaningful from Gordon’s reaction on twitter to the circumstance and fine. Whether his displeasure is rooted in feeling the fine was too high or too low or if he simply is upset at the anti-gay remarks by Edwards is unknown, but regardless of Gordon’s intention, his input carried weight with many. Truth is perception and his comments would only serve to hurt LGBTQIA people by allowing others to use Gordon’s comments as justification for their own personal offensive comments in day to day life.
Following the backlash after Gordon’s reaction to Edwards’ fine, Gordon turned back to twitter once again to make his voice heard.
Just as it was with the first tweet, Gordon eventually deleted this post as well.
There is a lot to unpack here, but I want to start with this simple truth. No one knows what Gordon’s intent was or his true feelings other than Gordon himself, but that simply does not matter. Gordon inserting himself into Edwards’ public mistakes regarding homophobic language opened the door for interpretation. Again, truth is simply a matter of perception. LGBTQIA people being worried that Gordon’s reaction to Edward’s homophobic remarks could continue to reinforce anti-gay language in daily life is not only a fair concern, but a very real issue that has negatively impacted many; especially in recent years.
According to The ACLED Project, “anti-LGBT+ mobilization — including demonstrations, political violence, and offline propaganda activity like flyering — increased by over four times from 2020 to 2021” and “incidents of political violence targeting the LGBT+ community this year have already exceeded the total number of attacks reported last year” as of June 2022. There were nine times as many anti-LGBTQIA demonstrations in 2021 (54) compared to 2020 (6) according to their data and there have been 22 anti-LGBTQIA demonstrations in 2022 as of June.
The trends only keep getting more and more concerning which is why Gordon’s reaction to Edwards’ mistake is so harmful. Regardless of how he truly feels, he contributed to a culture that accepts making jokes at the expense of LGBTQIA people just living their lives which has evolved and morphed into violence against them.
This problem with the continued use of anti-LGBTQIA language is an ongoing issue. Edwards is the most recent perpetrator, but Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was also fined $50,000 last season for using offensive and derogatory language on social media in addition to Gordon’s teammate, Nikola Jokic, who’s postgame comment in 2018 got him fined $25,000. This language, while entirely and unequivocally problematic and harmful, still thrives in many areas which includes locker rooms all around the NBA and other professional sports.
On an even simpler level, I still cannot understand Gordon’s reasoning for his comments on Edwards’ derogatory language. What could he have hoped to accomplish? Clearly Gordon knew his tweets were problematic or he would not have deleted them quickly after hitting send so why post them in the first place? Even if this is not how he feels, Gordon’s reaction to Edwards’ fine made many feel like Gordon was arguing to protect his ability to make jokes at the expense of others. Gordon had seemingly nothing to gain through his actions and he instead hurt many people and his own reputation in the process.
There has been no further statement from the Nuggets or Gordon as of Wednesday morning at the time of this writing, but Nuggets media day is on Monday, September 26th and Gordon will get questions about his public reaction. Still, even if Gordon’s intentions were not malicious, the damage caused by his words has already percolated and for someone who has been in the league as long as Gordon has, he should have a better understanding of the impact he can have when weighing in on a subject.
As to what comes next, not much is known. Will the NBA fine Gordon for his reaction to Edwards’ fine? Will Gordon issue an apology? Will this all get swept under the rug? Only time will tell, but let me be frank: this problem of using homophobic language has been hovering under the radar for generations. It is as ingrained in the NBA and other institutions today as it has been for the decades that preceded. Of course not everyone is an active participant, but to claim this type of derogatory speech has been eradicated is simply a fantasy. The Nuggets, the NBA, and institutions everywhere still have so much further to go in order to create truly inclusive environments.