This is just heartbreaking.
A gay teenager in La Grande, Oregon died after a suicide attempt that took place in the schoolyard of an elementary school. Fifteen-year-old Jadin Bell hung himself on Saturday, Jan. 19, but according to Portland’s KATU, he was taken off life support on Tuesday. Family and friends said the boy was the target of vicious bullying, both at school and online.
Bell had begged his parents to allow him to be home schooled and when that failed, he appealed to school administrators for help. Authorities were investigating the matter when he hung himself from the jungle gym on the playground at La Garde’s Central Elementary School.
A passerby found the teenager and quickly cut him down, but by then it was too late. Doctors at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland said there was little brain activity, that the flow of blood to Bell’s brain had been disrupted for too long.
Contrast with these comments from Chris Culliver on the Super Bowl bound San Francisco 49ers.
“I don’t do the gay guys, man,” Culliver told radio host Artie Lange. “I don’t do that. No.”
Asked whether there are any gay players on the 49ers, Culliver said, “Nah. We don’t got no gay people on the team. You know, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”
Incredulous, Lange pointed out that gay players might be able to play well, too, but Culliver responded, “Nah. Nah. Can’t be… can’t… uh… be in the locker room.”
Lange then asked whether Culliver thought gay players should stay closeted while playing professionally, and Culliver responded, “Yeah, you gotta, you gotta come out 10 years later after that.”
He then apologized. Well, he actually said this:
“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel,” he said in the statement. “It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”
Seriously, what? What does this even mean? And how does this undo the harm of 15 year olds hanging themselves on playgrounds? They are the ones who internalize the “derogatory comments” reflecting thoughts in the heads of the men they look up to or watch on tv.
Guess what, NFL players, owners and fans? 15 year old gay kids and the bullies who torment them don’t have the ability to read your hearts. They do hear the words you say and the words you don’t say when your players make these kinds of horrible comments.
It matters. Words matter. And here are some more words that matter.
The 49ers’ linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, both of whom participated in the team’s widely-praised “It Gets Better” video last summer, have denied ever producing the clip.
The players told USA Today Sports that they didn’t realize the video’s aim was to specifically combat bullying experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens.
“This is America and if someone wants to be gay, they can be gay,” Brooks told the publication. “But I didn’t make any video.” Later, after he was reportedly shown the video on an iPhone, the player clarified, “Oh, that. It was an anti-bullying video, not a gay [rights] video.”
Even more curiously, Sopoaga similarly denied taking part in the clip, even as a teammate reportedly tried to jog his memory. “I never went,” he declared. “And now someone is using my name.”
So the video is down from the It Gets Better site.
Where does the crazy homophobic madness end? It is not going to end with the 49ers doing anything to interfere with the Superbowl. So why not suspend him for a game next year? Or send him to some sort of day with gay athletes? Or something.
Something. Do something, NFL. Do something, fans. Do something because this whole “say stupid shit” is hurting people. And we need to stop pretending it doesn’t matter and pretending that Chris Culliver doesn’t influence the kids in middle school who bully 15 year olds.
We just need to stop.