While waiting for a flight last weekend, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve opened Twitter and saw Anthony Edwards' name trending. She clicked to see why.
Reeve looked at the viral snippet in which the Timberwolves guard made homophobic comments in his Instagram video as he observed a group of men on a nearby sidewalk.
The video reminded Reeve of a darker time in her life, of the years she was closeted and did not want to live her life openly out of fear she would hear hurtful language like Edwards used, that she might encounter people whose attitudes reflected those comments and that people might think it's OK to use words and actions to harm LGBTQ+ people.
"My journey was one of a more closeted nature for fear of retribution, and things being held against you, of not feeling safe, and so that's honestly what I thought of," Reeve told the Star Tribune from Australia, where she is coaching the U.S. Women's National Team. "How much an incident like that can be so destructive in progress that we've made during the course of my lifetime. Frankly, it's irresponsible and it puts people in danger. … We often live in fear."
The sting of seeing it hasn't gone away nearly a week after she first viewed it. Reeve, who is one of the most important people in the Wolves and Lynx organization and one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ people in professional basketball, said Edwards' words can have a profound impact on others in the LGBTQ+ community, especially youth. The organization and Edwards have a long road ahead to repair the damage caused — work beyond an apology, which Edwards issued via a tweet.
"These moments are a real reminder for how much work is left to be done. I think obviously it's hurtful. The [organization is] going to be there for Anthony. I want to caution them from prioritizing Anthony over the LGBTQ+ community he offended. That is really important to me."
The 21-year-old Edwards has played the past two seasons for the Wolves after one collegiate year at Georgia; he is a native of Atlanta and had a supporting role in the Adam Sandler film "Hustle," released earlier this year.
Although Edwards deleted his Instagram video, users on Twitter still recorded it and passed it around the platform. In the video, Edwards comments on what he assumes is the group's sexual orientation from the way they were dressed, using the word "queer" in a derogatory manner. He then says, "Look what the world done came to, bruh."
Reeve can't get that last sentence out of her head — "That keeps ringing in my ears. That's a tough one."
That made Reeve, who is married to Lynx president of business operations Carley Knox, concerned that what Edwards said was more than a joke.
"That one sort of crosses it into, 'Is hatred on his heart?' " Reeve said. "That seems to push it towards a more homophobic mindset. That was harder for me. That was pretty hurtful."
Reeve also said the "really concerning part" was the "premeditated nature" of what Edwards did — that Edwards had to think to pull out his phone, record the men while making comments and then upload it to his Instagram.
"At no point in time did he think that would be problematic," Reeve said. "It just shows a real ignorance and insensitivity."
She said the comments can be especially hurtful toward LGBTQ+ youth who look up to Edwards, and who might now think one of their favorite basketball players might not be OK with who they are.
"Those that maybe have looked up to him, and then now hear those very hurtful words, they may think they're not worthy because Anthony Edwards said those things," Reeve said. "... He needs to understand that. I would hope that's something he would want to try and see outside of himself."
Reeve said she didn't know Edwards very well except to say hello from time to time at the Wolves and Lynx joint practice facility. The 55-year-old coach is proud of the progress the Lynx and Wolves have made in promoting diversity within and outside the organization. She said it must now help Edwards realize why what he said was so hurtful to a marginalized group of people and make that the focus in dealing with the situation, not Edwards' public image.
She said a fine from the NBA would be "appropriate." She also said she hoped there would be some sort of "outreach" with Edwards toward the LGBTQ+ community, that he would educate himself more about LGBTQ+ people, that there would be a "sizable donation" to pertinent charities and that Edwards speak more directly about his true feelings.
"By now, Anthony Edwards should be facing publicly, not behind his phone, but publicly, an apology, so all of us can understand," Reeve said. "That would be the first step I would encourage him to take."
With that effort, Edwards could create some good out of the situation. For now, there is a lot of disappointment and hurt Reeve and others feel.
"It just sets us back very, very far," Reeve said. "It's a very antiquated view and it was very immature."