Count Chris Bosh among the growing contingent of pro athletes who feel his peers should band together in a boycott against the use of the N-word and other racial slurs during games.
“It’s a very tough situation,” Bosh told ESPN, admitting that he hears the words used during games all the time and that it makes for many uncomfortable situations. Of the prospect an NFL-floated proposal that would penalize players for in-game use of the word could be adopted by the NBA, he added “if that’s the case, they should ban all slurs. And I know it’s a big deal, because I think that word is used too much, especially in the mainstream nowadays.”
Bosh comments come at a time when the sports world, as a whole, seems inundated with populist issues regarding the race and sexual orientation of some of its players. The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract earlier this week, making him the first openly gay player to play in an NBA game and former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam is poised to soon break that same barrier in the NFL.
The NFL is considering legislation to enforce 15-yard penalties for use of the N-word and other homophobic-like slurs. The league is expected to formally weigh the issue and proposal at its upcoming competition committee meetings later this month.
While Bosh is all in favor of a similar NBA mandate, with the penalty coming in the form of technical fouls and ejections, he admits enforcing them would present an entirely different set of challenges for NBA officials.
“I don’t know how they’re going to enforce it,” he said. “That’s going to be a tough thing. It’s your word against his word. I think that can kind of get tricky. Well, what if I say this? There are a bunch of other offensive things I could say and not get a penalty. I think if we’re going to bring one thing in, I think we’ve got to put them all in the hat. And I think that’ll work out better.”
What’s more, Bosh is also among those who believe context plays a major role regarding use of the word and how it is policed, as many nowadays argue it’s used as a term of endearment as much anything.
“That’s why it’s so confused, because it’s in mainstream America now,” said Bosh. “And a lot of people say, ‘Aw, I’m not a racist because I used it in a friendly way. It’s like I said — if you’re going to penalize one word, then put them all in there. Use every slur, every negative curse word, if you will, and that will simplify it a little bit.”
While the NBA hasn’t publicly dealt with any major flareups involving the N-word, league officials have reacted swiftly and sternly in recent seasons to incidents where the homophobic slurs were hurled.
Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 in April of 2011 after a national TV audience captured him directing a homophobic slur toward a referee and a month later Bulls center Joakim Noah was docked $50,000 for hurling a like insult at a heckling fan.
“Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive and derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our league,” then Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.