Rookie linebacker Tank Carder recently experienced the effects of using homophobic slurs on social outlets like twitter. Carder, who referred to another twitter user as a “faggot”, apologized on Monday and said he didn’t mean to “offend anyone”. But the anti-gay tweets have already offended many, especially gay athletes like Vince Pryor who played college football at TCU where Tank Carder also attended. In an open letter to Carder posted by Outsports.com on Tuesday, Pryor speaks of his disappointment of Carder’s use of the word “faggot”.
“I was surprised and disappointed to read about the anti-gay remarks you made on Twitter. As an alumnus of TCU and a former football player, I know from my own experience that your words do not represent the culture of TCU. However, I am disappointed in the lack of understanding you’ve shown in the effect your words can have on young athletes who consider you a role model.”
Tank Carder initially stood by his comment and offered a non-apology stating that his use of the anti-gay slur was in a response to an attack on his team. Nether the less, Pryor says the Cleveland Browns player has a responsibility as a public figure and spokesman for both TCU and the NFL.
“As a public figure and a representative of both TCU and the NFL, your words have power, especially for young athletes who happen to be gay. When I was an athlete at TCU, I lived in fear for many years over what would happen if my coaches or teammates learned that I was gay.
I feared that I would be kicked off the team or that my scholarship would be taken away and that my family would be embarrassed and ashamed. As a result, I hid in the background and didn’t play to my full potential because I was concerned that any attention I drew to myself would lead to further questions about my personal life and to rumors or ridicule that would ultimately have me removed from the team.”
Vince Pryor also talks about how these fears made him consider suicide and the effects a word that many may conceive as “just a word” can impact gay athletes who struggle with their fears of coming out and the social reaction they may receive by both fans and fellow athletes.
“When you call someone a faggot, you reinforce all of the fears that I struggled with and other young gay athletes struggle with to this day. They will think that your views represent their teammates’ views and they will stay hidden and never realize their full potential as an athlete. Although it may be hard for you to understand, this kind of fear and isolation can be devastating, as it was for me for many years.”
Tank Carder is one of a few athletes to make anti-gay tweets. Brandon Spikes, Jonathan Vilma and Roddy White of the NFL and Amar’e Stoudemire of the NBA have made comments only to later apologize. But it is the initial comments and reactions that causes players like Vince Pryor to live in fear and as he says, everyone “who plays sports should be able to play without fear that their identity will affect how others view them as an athlete.”