Bad sportsmanship

This college coach used an anti-gay insult to get under a player’s skin. It totally backfired.

Russell Turner, basketball coach, UC-Irvine, homophobia, homophobic slur
UC-Irvine basketball coach Russell Turner

During a post-game interview, 48-Year-Old UC-Irvine basketball coach Russell Turner revealed that he referred to one competitor, 19-year-old Oregon freshman Louis King, as “queen” to his face, and instructed other UC-Irvine players to do the same to get under King’s skin during the game. The only problem: It didn’t work. Not at all.

In his interview, Turner said that “queen” was a play on King’s last name and a back-handed way to compliment him for being his team’s most valuable player, like a queen on a chessboard.

Turner said:

“I was saying double team Queen to try to see if I could irritate him. And I did…. it bothered [King] … He started thinking about me. But he came back and finished the game really strong. And he’d had a thing or two to say to me during the game, and I wanted to let him know that what I’d done was out of respect.”

Yes, there’s nothing more respectful than using a thinly veiled homophobic and misogynist insult to screw with someone’s confidence. Did we mention that King led his team to defeat UC-Irvine 73 to 54. Stuff that in your basket, Turner.

King’s mother (and much of Twitter) noted Turner’s crappy behavior, and called on him to apologize.

Turner did.

His apology reads in part:

I would like to address my post-game comments. I recognize my actions were inappropriate and insensitive…. I have spoken to Louis, his parents, and to Oregon’s head coach Dana Altman. They have graciously accepted my explanation and apology.

I take seriously my responsibility as a campus and community leader, and I regret that my actions during the Oregon game did not meet the standard of leadership I should consistently set…. I accept full responsibility for my ill-considered actions, and I will learn from this situation to be a more thoughtful coach and competitor.

A 2015 study found that 33 percent of straight male athletes and over 50 percent of gay and lesbian athletes have been personally experienced homophobic harassment by opponents and teammates.

As Outsports pointed out, “[Turner’s insult suggests that] being associated with a woman is weak. And in the minds of closeted young LGBTQ men in the stands, on the bench and dribbling on the court, it tells them they do not belong anywhere in that arena.”

Related: Jocks who use antigay slurs aren’t actually homophobic, says new study

Is it any wonder that no professional U.S. sports team has an openly gay male player in it? Taunts like Turner’s only contribute to sports’ homophobic environment.