Polamalu Is No Wallflower

October 20, 2008

Troy Polamalu is one of the most feared safeties in the NFL. As a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has won a Super Bowl, been named to the Pro Bowl four times and named All-Pro twice.

Polamalu plays rough and hard on the field, so it's no surprise that he spoke out in defense of his teammate, Hines Ward, who was fined by the league for unnecessary roughness in the past two games.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Polamalu was bemoaning the state of football and the fact his teammate was fined, despite Ward never receiving a penalty during those games.

He said:

Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu

"I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety."

Troy Polamalu on Sports Illustrated

Troy Polamalu on Sports Illustrated

Polamalu then went on to say:

"(Football) just loses so much of its essence when it becomes like a pansy game."

What may have been an off-the-cuff remark to Polamalu speaks volumes of the state of sports and athletics.

The word "pansy" is used to disparage men who aren't hypermasculine and has traditionally been used as a reference to gay men.  Even Merriam-Webster's lists the second definition of the word as "a male homosexual."

And while it's not exactly shocking to hear a professional athlete use the word, I'm dismayed that sports media would put the defamatory remark front and center, as if they plan to address it as wrong, and yet fail to hold them accountable.

For example, USA Today used "pansy" in its headlines here and here - as well as Sporting News -  and yet the articles never addressed the use of the word.

Sports media clearly recognize that "pansy" is a trigger word that incites a gut reaction in their readers, but unlike non-sports media they don't address it with the same scrutiny (just ask Sen. Hillary Clinton). 

In ESPN's coverage of Polamalu's remarks, commentator Mark Schlereth also gives Polamalu a pass by not addressing the word.  Instead he focuses on how the NFL doesn't doesn't care about its players -- only its image.

The only media outlet that has addressed Polamalu's remark has been Outsports.com, a website devoted to the LGBT sporting community.

GLAAD encourages reporters, journalists and commentators to not give players and coaches a pass when it comes to anti-gay remarks. These words, when uttered in the locker room, on the playing field or in press conferences, need to be challenged immediately.  Otherwise, the sports world will continue to be a haven for anti-gay attitudes and homophobia.