There’s a fine line between old-fashioned, lighthearted trash talk and slurring someone with personal attacks. The fan that shouted at Russell Westbrook to “get down on his knees like he used to” crossed it. Conor McGregor leaped over that line when he hurled homophobic slurs.
And UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner intentionally trying to insult Oregon’s Louis King by calling him Louis “Queen” in the Ducks’ 73-54 second-round win over the Anteaters in the NCAA Tournament? Yep, he most definitely crossed it.
Take a look at the postgame press conference video of UC Irving coach Russell Turner, who is a 48-year-old man, laughing about his game plan to attack the masculinity of a 19-year-old in Oregon freshman forward Louis King.
“I was saying double team Queen to try to see if I could irritate him, and I did,” Turner said. “We were calling him queen because I knew it might irritate him, because of how important he is to their team, the queen of chess. It was a play on his name of King. It bothered him.”
Turner says he called King “Queen” because he’s like the best piece on a chess board and the best player on their team. He also says he meant it out of respect, but it came just seconds after he said he was trying to irritate him. King may be one of Oregon’s best players, but that explanation was bullshit and Turner knows it.
As Outsports noted, Turner’s insults were blatantly homophobic and sexist, and the coach “clearly came into the game with a plan to use notions of femininity to taunt” King. What are women and members of the LGBTQ community supposed to think when they hear this being hurled as an insult?
For those that think the comment to the Oregon Ducks star during March Madness wasn’t a big deal or that everyone is “too soft” nowadays, you’re probably part of the problem. Take a stand against garbage like this. Even if it doesn’t affect you.
In an era where female athletes get little to no respect — like a professional softball player making less money than a bat boy or Serena Williams not being able to wear an empowering catsuit — and gay athletes consider suicide over homophobic torment — like former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan — the “you play ball like a girl” comments just don’t fly.
Jemele Hill took issue with it. So did former tennis star Martina Navratilova.
Mike Golic and Trey Wingo summed it up pretty perfectly, too.
There’s nothing funny about it. It’s tiring to hear. A coach of Turner’s age shouldn’t let his players spew such nonsense, let alone yell it at a teenager himself. Turner did apologize following the backlash, but he doesn’t specifically say why his actions were offensive or even mention women or the LGBTQ community. It felt more like he’s saving face.
Whether you think UC Irvine Anteaters should take further action and fire Turner is less important as getting rid of this type of stuff in sports. That it happened on college basketball’s biggest stage shows just how prominent it is.
There’s just no room for it.