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In Jamaica football culture, from scrimmage level to professional, it’s quite common to hear players blurt out homophobic slurs in colourful shades of the local dialect, whether with rising anger or in jest.

So, it was not at all surprising to see the reactions when The Gleaner recently posted the story on United Soccer League’s (USL) Phoenix Rising player, Junior Flemmings, who was accused of hurling a Jamaican homophobic slur towards an openly gay San Diego Loyal player.  A lot of the reactions were empathetic. In fact, a good deal of the comments section on their Instagram page read like this:

“Oh dear. It’s a Jamaican [thing]. No hurt [feelings] meant.”

“It’s the norm. Don’t chastise him. For Jamaicans, everybody [is] a ‘b***y b*y’.”

“It [is] not [that] serious.”

Respondents seemed very understanding, even though Flemmings denied the allegations.  For many of us, after all, shouting homophobic slurs during football games just isn’t a big deal, in fact, it’s the norm.  No harm was done, right?  Wrong, just because something is the norm that doesn’t make it right, nor should it be set in stone. Norms can change over time.  And, in cases like this, a lot of those changes will facilitate the growth of a society.

EJ, the Communication and Campaign Strategist, at J-Flag, pointed out that the incident is an opportunity to remind people about why the use of homophobic slurs should be re-evaluated.

 “Whether it is said in the public domain or in private spaces, or around close friends and family, slurs reinforce the negative views of LGBT identities,” he reflected.

 “Slurs often bring the community back to sites of hurtful mental and emotional trauma. While some use the excuse that it is not being directed at any [particular] person who is out [as] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBT), slurs reinforce the idea that LGBT identities are so ‘dirty’ that they can be used to cause verbal harm to ‘straight’ men.”

In addition to maintaining negative stereotypes associated with the LGBT community, EJ is concerned that reinforcing the notion that Jamaica is ‘the most homophobic place on earth’ could also be harmful.  He recommends being more aware of the consequences homophobic remarks can have on the country.

“If we’re serious about removing that stigma from our name and the damage that it causes to brand Jamaica, we have to be more mindful of our language and conscious of the harm it may cause.”

Flemmings’ recent statement that was posted to his personal Twitter page ended with, “I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.”   Who knows, maybe his public support for the community will motivate others to consider the feelings of the LGBT community and the consequences of their actions, on and off the field, in the future. (Sports Max)

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