Bring Back The Rainbows, Mac
Wednesday - August 12, 2009
This past spring I spent a day in Oxford, Miss. While there, I walked around the campus of the University of Mississippi. In front of one of the buildings was an historical marker that read, and I paraphrase, that on Oct. 1, 1962, after a night of rioting, James Meredith registered as the first black student to enter the University of Mississippi.
I didn’t gasp, but I came close to it. I certainly grew emotional. I was a college sophomore at the time, and I remember those events well. My tears, however, were of gratitude: That in my lifetime, I had seen reported the horrors of night - two dead and 160 injured, 28 of whom were federal marshals guarding Meredith; but that I had also seen the election of the first African-American president of the United States, and he was from the state in which I have lived most of my life.
We’ve come a long way in race relations in those 47 years. Yet still, in one of the most liberal communities in the United States, a renowned American scholar could be arrested in his own home. Why? Because that scholar was black and he became uppity with a white police officer.
President Barack Obama got it right the first time: The Cambridge cops acted “stupidly.” In 2009, no American should be arrested, cuffed, and hauled off to jail when a police officer assumes his guilt on the basis of race.
We’ve come a long way on gender issues as well. The courts in several states have ruled in favor of same-sex marriages and civil unions. This past session, our own state Legislature came within one house vote of passing a civil unions bill.
But then the University of Hawaii’s million-dollar football coach, Greg McMackin used a gay slur at a press conference. When he saw jaws dropping throughout the assemblage of media, McMackin quickly retreated, begging the press present not to report what he had said. In the process, ever so dimly, he used the word again - and again. Moments later, McMackin apologized.
A national uproar rent the land over McMackin’s use of the slur. University of Hawaii officials suspended him for a month without pay. A tearful coach, with most of his team in attendance, accepted his punishment.
I’ve never met McMackin. The McMackin I’ve seen on television seems a kind and decent man. People who know him well tell me that he’s just that - and about the last person you would expect to say what he said before the press or anyone else. Still, McMackin said it. And my guess is that he and others who live in the jock culture of major sports in America use gender slurs, in private at least, more than I’m aware.
Hawaii’s sports culture reeks of testosterone. Our football games, on both the high school and college level, have too often turned literally riotous: on the field and in the stands. During halftime at a bowl game a couple of years ago, I saw a drunken brawl break out among a dozen fans at - on that day at least - the mis-named Aloha Stadium.
Symbolically, the University of Hawaii has fueled this uber manliness. When departed head football coach June Jones asked for a “re-branding” of university teams from “rainbows” to “warriors,” athletic department and university leadership went along. According to then athletic director Hugh Yoshida, the Rainbows smacked too much of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance rainbow flag.
We couldn’t have that, could we? So warriors we became. Never mind that rainbows we had been for decades prior to June Jones and prior to Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Never mind that naturally produced rainbows brand the university’s Manoa Valley many days of every collegiate year.
I would gently suggest that Coach Mac retro-brand his team “Rainbows.”
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