On Saturday, Nov. 24, Masin Elijè, a gay author and social media personality, alleged that NBA player Dwight Howard has been threatening and harassing him to hide the fact that they were in a sexual relationship.
I was afraid to speak but today my life was threatened after I was sexually harassed, threatened and manipulated, by someone I respected, my ex boyfriend NBA player Dwight Howard, and his camp also “”catfished”” by his disrespectful ass PASTOR pic.twitter.com/n1I1fwDcUw
— Masin Elijè (@MasinElije) November 25, 2018
According to Elijè, the abusive behavior began after he refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement regarding their former relationship. The social media personality shared a thread on his Twitter account, complete with video and audio recordings, saying that during their relationship, Howard cheated on him with transgender men and women.
Although the Wizards’ center has yet to deny or confirm these allegations, social media users have accepted Elijè’s claims as facts, and their reactions are nothing short of homophobic and transphobic.
What’s disturbing isn’t that Howard might be gay, it’s that so many people are now viciously attacking him on the internet for something that may not be true—something that has absolutely nothing to do with Dwight Howard the person or the basketball player. In fact, some seem to care more about Howard’s sexual orientation than the fact that he was accused of threatening another man’s life.
On Twitter, one user wrote, “Ahhh hell naw I can’t believe I shook Dwight Howard ho** a** hands now!”
It seems the achievements of Howard, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and gold medal Olympian who has not only dominated the league for years but proven to be a pretty charitable guy (he was awarded the NBA Community Assist Award in 2014 and is a five-time winner of the DeVos Community Enrichment Award), have become irrelevant. Every accomplishment, every good deed has been erased by the possibility that he might be gay.
Another Twitter user wrote: “U gay bro @DwightHoward ion never wanna see u in ATL again, das on god.”
— fool onna corner w/that bobby brown (@MclarenMyers) November 25, 2018
Ultimately, the overwhelming number of degrading and crude jokes made about this situation reveals that a huge chunk of our society is still deeply homophobic; it says to those who are struggling with opening up about their own sexuality: “Better not or they’ll crucify you, too.”
According to former NBA player Jason Collins, “Transphobic & homophobic jokes aren’t funny and can lead to deadly consequences. Transphobia & homophobia get people killed everyday around the world.”
Collins was the NBA’s first and only openly gay player. In 2013, he came out in a column in Sports Illustrated to “nearly universal acclaim and a standing ovation at Barclays Center,” wrote New York Magazine’s Will Lietch.
A year after that, the St. Louis Rams drafted openly gay defensive end Michael Sam in the seventh round of the NFL draft, and he celebrated by kissing his boyfriend on live TV. Though his team jersey immediately became the second best-selling in the NFL, Sam never played a regular season game.
And as for Collins? He played 22 games for the New York Nets, and, according to Lietch, “that was that.”
Today, there are no openly gay players in the four major North American men’s professional sports leagues, writes Leitch. In fact, if an athlete does anything that could be seen as “gay,” waves of people, mostly men, rush to question and criticize his sexuality.
Take, for example, NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. His love for dancing stirred rumors in the league concerning his sexuality. In 2015, there was even an outing campaign against the star receiver because someone posted a video to Instagram of him dancing with a male friend.
During a game over the summer against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves players Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies shared a cuddle and tender head caress in the dugout. Many took to Twitter to joke about the affectionate moment, at the same time revealing their disapproval and underlying homophobia.
One user wrote, “Acuña Jr. and Albies make us feel just a little uncomfortable…” Another tweeted: “MLB #CuddlePuddle not the move.”
— 49ERNATIVE (@DankerD) July 30, 2018
Reactions such as these prove that there is a part of this country that is not ready for an openly gay major league athlete. “Obviously, there are gay players in these sports, surely dozens of them,” Lietch writes. “But they are nowhere to be seen or heard. There has been no progress made in this area at all.”
How can there be when even dancing has become equated with being gay, when the word “gay” itself is still synonymous with abomination?
According to Will Eaves, author of the novel Murmur, “fear of homosexuals is never far from the surface.” Until we as a society realize that being gay or transgender changes nothing about a person’s character, gay men and women will always feel they have to hide.
As author Abhijit Naskar says, we must forget gender, forget sexual orientation and “become a human, my friend. Become a human above everything else, and all great things shall follow.”