In today’s Daily Journal, the Los Angeles periodical devoted to legal news, Ara Babaian discusses Kobe Bryant’s double “F-Bomb” (which included a gay slur, just to be clear)and its effect on both professional sports and the gay and lesbian (LGBT) community.
The article is only available if you have a password to the Daily Journal’s portal (or have access to a legal library), but Babaian’s analysis discusses some points that are lost in this debate.
Bryant’s outburst after a technical foul was called on him after a critical game against the San Antonio Spurs won him a $100,000 fine and is currently under appeal. How you feel about Bryant’s reaction towards a referee’s questionable call during a National Basketball League game earlier this month (watch the video below) and the debate is besides the point. The hypotheticals over what would have happened if a white player called a black referee have lit up enough of the blogosphere. How his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, and Bryant end up handling the controversy, however, could be an important lesson in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business strategy.
Once shunned, gays and lesbians have been actively courted by corporations for years. The truth is not just about disposable income: despite the right wing’s claim that gays and lesbians are more well-to-do than other American demographic groups, the fact is that as an aggregate, gays and lesbians often earn less money than their straight counterparts. The difference, however, is in loyalty: no matter what their annual W-2 might state, gays and lesbians are fiercely loyal to brands and companies that support LGBT causes. The Lakers and Bryant would be better off if they would use the April 12 incident as a “teachable moment” and find a way to work with this community that will not stay silent--Target’s public relations nightmare after its CEO donated money to right-wing politicians during the 2010 election campaign is a case in point.
To that end, professional sports have to reach out to other markets. China and Europe will not sport teams anytime soon, and all four major sports leagues are a mess. Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are fiscal basket cases; the National Football League locked out is players; the NBA operates the New Orleans Hornets; and hockey teams in Sun Belt states are struggling to put fans in the seats. Corporations are cutting back on their purchase of luxury suites in sporting venues, and cash-strapped cities are loathe to subsidize arenas where the tenants are billionaire owners and millionaire players. Professional sport leagues need to get over their homophobia and court a segment who will spend coin if they feel accepted. Bryant’s expletive, no matter what the reason, is unacceptable; but this could be a defining example for inclusion and allow an athlete to become a role model instead of a model of boorish, caustic, and self-absorbed behavior.