Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards will probably be fined by the NBA for making homophobic comments on social media. The penalty may even amount to what he earns by playing a quarter of one basketball game.
When a star athlete embarrasses himself, his team and his league, the league's response usually takes the form of damage control. Put out a statement or two, levy a fine that the athlete barely will notice, and move on as quickly as possible.
The NBA, in this case, could even suspend him for a game, if it wants to make a sharper point.
Any fine, for a player who will probably make a half-billion dollars during his career, will not matter.
A suspension would punish those in the Timberwolves organization who had nothing to do with Edwards' offense.
So don't fine Edwards. Educate him.
Bigotry is ignorance made evil. Erase Edwards' ignorance.
The organization that encompasses the Lynx and Timberwolves is ideally suited to make this happen.
The Lynx's president of business operations, general manager and coach — Carley Knox being the former, and Cheryl Reeve being the latter two — are gay and married to each other. They are exemplary humans.
Rebekkah Brunson, a Hall of Fame-caliber player for the Lynx, is gay. She is now a Lynx assistant coach, a broadcaster on Timberwolves games and a business owner. She is an exemplary human.
The Lynx and Timberwolves, who share an owner with the Star Tribune, employ gay people on their staff. The Star Tribune's Timberwolves beat writer, Chris Hine, is gay. I could tell you that he's an excellent writer and one of my favorite colleagues, but that shouldn't matter. He deserves to work in a space free of slurs regardless of his skill level and likability.
There is a statistical certainty that Edwards has played with and against athletes who are gay and have chosen not to publicize their true selves, because of the possibility that someone like Edwards would treat them the way he treated gay people he saw on the street.
The proper punishment for Edwards is simple, and difficult.
Require him to meet with every gay person employed by the Lynx and Timberwolves, and explain what he was thinking. Let him look into their eyes, and recognize their humanity, and realize how damaging his words were.
Then have him meet with gay fans, those who cheer him and provide the money that has made him rich at the age of 21.
These people might express anger or dismay at first, but ultimately they would likely just ask Edwards to be kinder going forward.
There should be one last step to this process.
Edwards is a Black man from Georgia. To fully comprehend the weight of his bigoted words, he should confront the history of bigotry in his home state, and how it affects everyone who shares the color of his skin. Study the sacrifices the great civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis made by taking a stand against bigotry, and how Black Georgians have been enslaved, Jim Crow-ed, disenfranchised, abused and voter suppressed.
Edwards would realize his common humanity with gay people.
The NBA should take step to ensure Edwards knows how many people he has hurt. That's the only way something good comes from this.