In the Black community, men who express even a passing, friendly physical affection toward each other are often subject to ridicule and homophobic attacks.
But on the basketball court, the sight of men kissing, hugging and patting each others’ backsides scarcely draws a comment.
Why is that? In “OUT OF BOUNDS” — an exclusive NewsOne documentary — journalist Sylvia A. Harvey explores the strange double-standard that allows Black men to express intimacy on the basketball court, but keeps a tight lid on those feelings and actions off the court.
Harvey explains how the documentary came to be:
The mini-doc, “Out of Bounds,” was born out of a fight over the TV remote, which I lost. Slowly descending into the world of clock shots, blocks, and turnovers, I started to anticipate Ray Allen’s three-pointer, Kevin Durant’s quick release shots and Blake Griffin’s dunks. NBA games showcased breathtaking plays and hard fought victories. But most compelling was the quiet backdrop that spoke louder than any winners or losers – the players’ behavior on the court.
When a player made that unimaginable shot or game saving free throw, yelling, chest pounding, mid-air chest bumps and high-fives ensued. But alongside this bravado came rare public displays of intimacy between black men—intimacy that if recognized could challenge traditional boundaries of black masculinity.
I set out to ask: What gave these men the license to hug, kiss, and slap each other’s backsides unapologetically in front of millions of spectators? Why hadn’t that license been granted to black men everywhere, and why was that license seemingly suspended once the game ended?
Many recreational ball players with whom I spoke ascribed the intimacy to the quirks of sports culture, but admitted an unspoken rule prevents this behavior from carrying beyond the court. That unspoken rule is explored via the influence of hyper-masculine hip-hop culture and heteronormative privilege.