I’m not going to use my blog today to rip WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins for his use of a homophobic slur on a Cincinnati radio station.
Every sports writer/columnist across the country, it seems, have taken care of that. They’ve all taken their cuts at him. And rightfully so.
Whether he knew he was on the air (he was told it was the case) or not, there was, as he’s admitted, no excuse for the derogatory language. His words were putdowns. And West Virginians have been put down so much over the years he should know how putdowns can hurt, how they can sting.
Yet I’ll not go on about that. You know what he said was wrong. I know what he said was wrong. He now knows what he said was wrong. About the only ones I wonder about are the radio hosts that cajoled him.
Also, I’m not going to debate whether the WVU punishment meted out to Huggins was sufficient. There’s no correct answer there. I saw where former peer Stewart Mandel tweeted that Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman’s career ended because of a homophobic slur, but Huggins – who used the same slur paired with the Catholic religion – only got a three-game suspension. My question: Who is to say Brennaman’s punishment was correct? In hindsight, was it really?
My challenge to Huggins is to show that indeed your punishment – a three-game suspension, a contract reduction of $1 million and subsequent years, and funding/work with LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations – was the correct path.
Really, I only have two questions for Huggs at this point.
First, what the HELL were you thinking?
Second, are you going to turn this into something of which many – you included – can learn?
I know Bob Huggins is wounded right now. I know him well enough to know the money or three-game suspension aren’t what hurt.
It’s understanding upon reflection what he said and coming to grips with the embarrassment he brought to himself, his family and friends, his basketball program, his school and his state. He loves all of those fiercely. Letting all down is his real punishment.
But there’s a way to, well, rebound, if you will. And it’s not by winning a bunch of games in the upcoming season.
Sure, winning at a high level will be deodorant for some of the stink to WVU fans. But most already embrace the man called Huggy Bear.
No, the way to rebound from this is to really listen and learn about the mental health crisis facing our college students, particularly those in the marginalized communities he just marginalized. Digest what LGBTQ+ folks go through. Befriend those leaders.
And then use the searing spotlight to spread the word. Educate the rest of us. Aside from giving money, clue us in on the most important issues and really support those regarding faith and justice and diversity and inclusion.
I’ve always said Bob Huggins doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Now it’s time to expand on that through actions in this area.
Again, giving money is fine. It’s helpful. Winning basketball games is all well and good.
But the way to “fix” this situation is by listening, learning. Then, once again, being the leader we know you can be.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.