NBA Teammates Hold Hands: Good Sportsmanship or Too Close for Comfort?

NBA Teammates Hold Hands: Good Sportsmanship or Too Close for Comfort?

When two Toronto Raptor teammates, Leandro Barbosa and Reggie Evans, were seen holding hands a few weeks ago, the country leaned back and furrowed its collective brow  as if to say, “Did I just see that?” Cyberspace exploded with obscene homophobic comments, and gay supporters mounted a rigorous defense of the gesture.

The captured moment raised some interesting points about America’s seeming contradiction regarding the issue of good sportsmanship and camaraderie versus so-called questionable behavior and homosexuality. Case in point:

Socially acceptable: Football players, even those brawny enough to swallow small furniture without chewing, often hold hands in the huddle. Society says their masculinity is not being compromised because it’s the ultimate sign of solidarity before they engage in bone-bruising battle at the line of scrimmage.

Not socially acceptable: When the NBA players held hands as they walked off the court, it was, for many, a flagrant violation of some very basic man laws.

“Yo, that was … ummmm … interesting,” Phil Johnson quipped from North Dakota. “The rules of sports engagement says its OK to hold hands in a huddle, slap your teammates’ rear ends during a good play — or even a bad play. Can even hug in a win. But society says never, ever [do that] outside the field of play.”

Tony Mitchell of Baltimore said he was surprised to see it because the NBA is such a macho industry. “But if I’d seen Michael Jordan do that, it wouldn’t have diminished what he did. It’s Michael Jordan. We’re putting more emphasis on people’s sexuality and less value on their talents and what they give back to society.”

Some people thought it definitely crossed the line of sportsmanship. “I had to watch it five times to make sure they weren’t exaggerating,” says Jonell Whitt. “That was very disturbing. If you want to be homosexual in the privacy of your own home, that’s your business. There’s a time and place for everything. Just like no one wants to see women breastfeed in public, no one wants to see this in public. They actually give women citations for breastfeeding in public.”

Nicole Harbin of Atlanta, however, concurs with Mitchell‘s sentiments. “LOL that too many people have too much time on their hands to try to develop something out of nothing.”

Georgia-based songwriter Connie “Kahnie” Smith terms the seeming affectionate gesture as basically innocuous — except maybe to those gay players who creep between the shadows to camouflage their sexual orientation. Smith insinuates that “down low” men wouldn’t want this to pop open the floodgates of people outing gay b-ballers.

“Seriously … this incident looked innocent to me, as it does when they pat each other on the [behind],” she said bluntly. “Now, we should worry more about the “undercovers” who would obviously have a problem with that.”

Royce Lewis, who lives outside Wilmington, Del., said, “I just think it’s weird for two men holding hands at anytime. Barbosa is foreign, and it may be OK. But Evans is a regular brother,” he says, then added, “I’d like to hear their take [on this].”

terry shropshire

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