(Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.)
I love Tank Carder – as a football player.
He was one of the true gems of our historic football tradition at TCU before graduating last year. In particular, I remember his 2010 All-American season concluding with his historic leap in the Rose Bowl deflecting what would be an easy game tying pass in one of TCU’s most historic wins, and leading him to being named the Defensive Player of the Game.
I won’t ever forget it and if you had the spectacular opportunity to see it – neither would you.
Nonetheless, I have stumbled upon a dilemma which forces me to challenge my affinity for our beloved football hero as of late, and quite honestly, it deeply saddens me, for there is now a conflict between my belief that Carder is both a great athlete and an ethical leader.
On Nov. 26, in response to a tweet from the “Because I’m a Guy” twitter account that stated, “Trying to betray all your teammates as soon as the game ends,” Carder, who currently plays for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL, lambasted the user by reacting, “unfollowed… your [sic] a faggot for that."
He has since indicated, by later tweets, that he believed the user was referencing team sports and has deleted that specific Tweet from his account. Shortly afterward, he was verbally attacked by Browns fans, TCU fans and people all over the country.
He responded to these criticisms with Tweets such as “stay unapologetically strong” and “yea they all getting butt hurt, and they are just chiming in…” Although Carder has since apologized for his actions, in many ways they look like non-apologies.
Now, I don’t know Tank Carder. I’ve never met him and won’t attempt to make a judgment call on his personality and convictions. But what I will say is this: no person, whether a student, an actor, a lawyer, a judge or professional football player should feel that they have the right to use language that clearly, though perhaps negligently, attacks and hurts a community of people.
Contrary to Carder’s later statement that it is “just a word,” it is not just a word. Although I myself am a heterosexual male and have never been called a “faggot," many people, including myself, believe that using this word is no different than using a racist or prejudiced term to call a Mexican-American a "wetback," an Asian-American a "chink," an African-American a "nigger" or a woman a "bitch" or "slut."
In each case there is a stinging effect; the word "faggot" is what is commonly deemed to be a “sexually prejudiced term;” it perpetuates that the other is inferior. It is utilized to, even if unintentionally, dehumanize an individual, to take from them their humanity and attribute to them something different than what they are – a person, a living, breathing human being.
Even though Carder’s statement was not directed at any individual for whom he believed was homosexual, the stinging effect still was and is present amongst all those read it and felt it – homosexual or not.
Ultimately, what I believe has occurred, in regards to the outcry against Carder, is a valuable lesson. I wish absolutely no ill will to him, in any physical or psychological sense.
What I do believe is that Carder will learn from his mistake here, as it was not an innocent one. He now faces the wrath of disappointed and angry fans and has likely lost any LGBTQ fan base that he may have had at the time, along with a long conversation with the NFL and GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Now, I do not believe either will change his disposition that he doesn't “agree with being gay or lesbian” but I do believe that this entire series of events will prompt Carder to be more respectful of the LGBTQ community – or at least in public.
Moreover, I hope that the TCU community becomes aware of this incident and takes into perspective how seemingly harmless language hurts others and what the ramifications are of using the them.
Jonathan L. Davis is a senior political science and psychology double major from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.