As I was observing the buzz created this week by the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage, I couldn’t help but think about former Packers great Reggie White.
Most Packers fan who are old enough probably remember this speech by White in front of the Wisconsin state legislature in March of 1998. White was scheduled to talk about some of his community service work. Instead the Minister of Defense went off about the sins of homosexuality and how being gay is a “decision.”
White also appeared in a few newspaper ads run by Christian organizations wearing his Packers jersey and promoting his opposition to homosexuality.
Can you imagine if White did these things in 2013 instead of 1998? Twitter would spontaneously combust. The comments section at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel would turn into even more of a cesspool than it already is. Collin Cowherd, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless would reach new levels of intolerable. Activist organizations would storm Lambeau Field.
White’s legacy would probably be damaged beyond repair.
Or would it?
I freely admit that I always think of White the former Packer. The image of White burned into my brain is this one, Super-Bowl trophy held high, a sense of accomplishment on his face.
I never think of this image of White, the one of White in a suit and tie, condemning homosexuality and making other disparaging remarks.
Should I think of that latter image? Am I wrong for willfully ignoring the fact that White had some incredibly homophobic views?
I’ve been asking myself those questions this week. I try to justify my justification of ignoring the latter image of White by saying that he has a right to his opinions like any other American. White should be praised for speaking his mind and expressing a view that he knew was probably going to generate a lot of negative publicity.
I also tell myself that there’s nothing wrong with viewing White as a former Packer and nothing more. When actors or musicians spout off with some nonsensical thoughts, I really don’t care. It’s not going to stop me from seeing his/her movie or buying an album. Why should it be different for athletes?