aAnthony Edwards is, without a doubt, a rising star in the NBA. He was the #1 pick overall in 2020 for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging over 25 points per game in the playoffs last season. Edwards even took his star power to the big screen in a LeBron James production, Acceleratesas the trash-talking basketball player, Kermit Welts.
But more recently, Edwards has replaced talking trash on screen for anti-gay rhetoric in real life, which is what happens. He posted to his 1.2 million followers on Instagram. on Sunday, He tweeted an apology, saying his comments were “immature, painful and disrespectful”. No doubt Edwards can play basketball, but what kind of guy, role model, or leader is he? What actions should be taken to discourage this type of behavior in the NBA and the broader sports world?
As an NFL player, I’ve been in the locker rooms with some of the strongest, strongest and most dedicated people on the planet. I know firsthand that being an elite athlete has costs: countless hours of training, relentless movie study, and the looming potential for injury. But this should not come at the expense of respect for others.
I don’t know what kind of man Edwards is – no one really knows that except for Edwards himself and those close to him. But I know that as a professional athlete, role model, teammate, and leader, your actions will reach more people than most of us will ever do.
Edwards is only 21 years old, and young people are often used to justify the shameful behavior he displayed on Instagram. But I offer this perspective: No age justifies hatred, homophobia, racism, misogyny, or bigotry of any kind. As for what he should do next to make up, it is not enough to issue an apology and hope he forgets about the accident. Time does not erode homophobia: Edwards needs to take conscious and concrete action to correct his actions. LeBron James was drafted out of high school and not only became one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but he also managed to make headlines for his accomplishments, activism, and business endeavors, rather than the slanders he would have spread on social media if he had acted like Edwards. LeBron, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Oscar Robertson before him, cemented his legacy on and off the field, something that I hope Edwards will now consider.
The Timberwolves released a statement Monday with the usual cliched words about being “inclusive” and “welcome.” We can only assume that Edwards’ punishment will be along the lines of $50,000 fine awarded to Kevin Durant After his annoying, anti-gay and anti-women outcry last year. But, if this turns out to be punishment, is it enough? The Timberwolves will pay Edwards $10.7 million this season: $50,000 for him as much as a $100 parking ticket for the rest of us. The fine will be more than a band-aid: a quick fix is unlikely to make any difference for Edwards, who will still be available to play for the Timberwolves. If only a fine were issued, Edwards and his team would be prioritized over the countless LGBTQ+ people directly experiencing the hurt feelings that his Instagram post perpetuates and reinforces.
As a professional athlete, I know how hard it is to get to the top and then stay there. So it really pains me to say that Edwards’ basketball career as well as his bank account must have been affected by his actions, even if it was just a minor disruption. Comment, fine and donate to LGBTQ+ organizations of his choice will send a message to the community that NBA Athletes are committed to being as inclusive as possible. It will also show other top-tier athletes that homophobia has no place. Edwards’ selection of the foundation he’s donating to would be an excellent opportunity for him to connect with his LGBTQ+ fans in a genuine and compassionate way. It would also allow him to continue his education and alliance by meeting LGBTQ+ and discovering that we are just like everyone else – sports fans, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads – rather than the people who get ridiculed on social media.
Only time will tell if Edwards’ apology means anything. If he genuinely cared about those who were hurt, the message he carried on, and the direction of his legacy. Or if he and the NBA are only interested in interactive apologies and frivolous fines.