This ad by the NBA was offensive and homophobic. It sent the wrong message that there was something disgusting or weird about same-sex affection.
However, I beleive that this was unintentional. It is important to remember that Shaquille O’Neal has been a friend to the GLBT community. When basketball star Tim Hardaway made anti-gay remarks after basketball player John Amaechi came out, Shaq defended him, saying:
“If he was on my team, I guess I would have to protect him from the outsiders,” said Shaquille O’Neal, center for the Miami Heat. “I’m not homophobic or anything…I’m not the type who judges people. I wish him (Amaechi) well.”
Shaq also followed a suspect who allegedly attacked a gay couple and then he alerted police. So, given this history, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Plus, he brought my team, the Miami Heat a championship. I can’t help but support Shaq – but I do blame the NBA and the stupid advertising firm, as well as ESPN/ABC for this idiotic commercial.
UPDATE: ESPN issued this statement this afternoon in response to voiced concerns from the LGBT community over its NBA ad with player Shaquille O’Neal and commentator Mike Breen:
We have dozens of executions of the “NBA on ESPN RV Tour” online campaign and none are intended to be offensive to anyone or any community of people. Our intent is to send a positive message about the camaraderie of sports and to do so as creatively as we can. However, we understand your perspective on this ad and would like to apologize to the members of the gay community. In addition, we have decided to remove the ad from the campaign’ online executions.
ESPN has a long-standing tradition of supporting diversity in the workplace and beyond. We are fully committed to continuing a dialogue that welcomes and recognizes diverse perspectives.
We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention.
– Rob Tobias – Vice President, Media Relations, ESPN
(Thank you Human Rights Campaign for making this happen)