Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sticks and Stones

By Chartese Burnett

We have all heard the old and familiar saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, or some semblance thereof. However, the truth of the matter is that words are often times more powerful than actions. Physical bruises and injuries heal in time; but hateful, ugly and derogatory comments cut deeply – and the words sometimes forever stay in the minds of those insulted.

On Monday night during Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, the Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah responded to a fan’s alleged nasty remarks about Noah’s mother with an ugly anti-gay slur. Noah’s remarks were caught on tape. The fan’s words were not (hence the “alleged” adjective). Weeks ago, Kobe Bryant was fined for a similar transgression, after apologizing publicly and went on to demonstrate his real sentiments (not those verbalized) with various efforts to try and prove that he is not intolerant.

I am not sure how I feel about the NBA’s policy towards players hurling slurs on the basketball court, i.e. how much a player is fined or whether or not he is suspended, because there are too many factors involved in weighing in those decisions. David Stern is a brilliant and fair man, so I trust that the NBA Commissioner will make the proper decisions regarding the League, its players and its fans.

What I do know is that verbal abuse should not be tolerated in any setting – workplace, school, or home. Apologies and actions after the fact are acceptable demonstrations of remorse; however, perhaps, exercising control over our emotions, and our tongues, although not always easy, would eliminate so much hurt and the subsequent costly fallout.

Having spent a lot of time in NBA arenas, NFL stadiums and MLB ballparks, I have been privy to a lot of language – both from the players who are pros because they throw their hearts in the game and from the stands by fans who are equally as passionate. At the end of the day – it’s sports, recreation, entertainment, a GAME. It’s not about life or death. I have spent over two decades working in sports, so, there is no doubt about my love of sports, the players who play the games and the fans who support the leagues, teams and entities for whom I have worked.

But let’s not tarnish the game with unfair play. Let’s play fair and shout and even “boo” during exciting games, but let’s keep profanity, racial slurs and anti-gay remarks off the courts, fields and out of the stands. When there are SO many tragic and devastating things happening in this world (tornados, disease and terrorism, to name a few that are plaguing our country), let’s embrace and uphold sports – one of the few things that should unify us, make us laugh and give us something to cheer about.

Chartese Burnett is Director of Non-Profit PR at Maroon PR. Contact her at Chartese@MaroonPR.com

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