Stephanie Rice apologises at a press conference in Sydney today over her Twitter remark:
Stephanie Rice is having a bad week. After broadcasting the most appalling thing on Twitter, she is being rightly castigated. And now there’s a knock-on effect for her wallet as Jaguar immediately terminated their sponsorship arrangement.
It was really four words that ended the deal with Rice, tweeted in the high of the Wallabies’ win over South Africa on Saturday: ”Suck on that faggots!”
According to the director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University, Bruce Moore, there was nothing ambiguous about the sentiment.
While terms like ”gay” may have been divorced from their homophobic origins in the past 20 years, faggot is not in that category.
”What surprised us, I think, is we haven’t heard it for so long aloud in public. It had that power to shock, almost like the word nigger,” Dr Moore said. ”The faggot part just seemed to be an extreme, strong, divisive term for homosexual. I just can’t see that you could use it in any other way.”
”I made a comment on Twitter on Saturday night in the excitement of the moment,” she wrote on her website this week. ”I did not mean to cause offence and I apologise.”
What was she thinking? She says she wasn’t. But for most people, no matter how excited or drunk or distracted…..that’s not ever a word that would slip out.
The word ‘faggot’ is so distasteful. There’s nothing fun or cute or camp about it. It is emphatically a word of abuse towards gay men who never ever use it about themselves.
But in all the swirl of argument and discussion about what she did that’s going on this week, one sentence keeps coming up “How stupid is that?”
The answer, obviously, is very stupid. But why is that a surprise?
I’m not going to get into a diatribe about the intelligence or homophobia of Stephanie Rice. I don’t know her. She may be a genius or a fool or like most of us, somewhere in between.
But I will say this: I have long had a massive problem with the way we elevate sports stars to be heroes.
Why? Because they can swim fast? Kick a ball with accuracy? Run quickly? Jump over high things?
Does that make you a hero?
Sporting stars may have great physical skills but that’s all. They’re no smarter or better or nicer or more well intentioned than the average Australian. In fact, I would argue that generally (and of course this is a generalisation), they are less informed, less aware and less street smart than the average bear.
This is because to become a great athlete, you have to spend many years from the time you are very young, refining your skills. That’s years swimming up and down a pool. Years running around a track. Years kicking a ball or hitting it with a bat.
That doesn’t leave much time to be a hugely well-rounded individual and it certainly shouldn’t make you deserving of the kind of fawning, heroic, ridiculous adulation we pile on sports people.
I’m happy for anyone who CHOOSES to spend years of their life dedicated to their sport. Go for it. But let’s not pretend it’s a selfless or noble pursuit.
Professional atheletes do it for many reasons. Sponsorship dollars. Personal satisfaction. A desire to represent their country or be the best at swimming or kicking or hitting or whatever it is they’re good at.
But surely it’s time to stop raising these individuals to the heights of real heroes. Because surely when they disappoint us and show their ordinariness or, in some cases, their prejudices, it’s a very long way to fall.
What do you think about the Stephanie Rice ‘faggot’ comment and how we treat sports stars? Does it sit well with you? Do they deserve their place as heroes?