McMackin sanctions on right track


POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

Hawaii football Coach Greg McMackin's three-time use of a pejorative for homosexual men in a press conference in Salt Lake City has created embarrassment in a state that takes pride in diversity. Use of the slur was immediately denounced by the coach's superiors at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus, and he has been suspended from his job for 30 days without pay and received a salary reduction — but his outrageous behavior should produce more lasting consequences.

Public awareness efforts and education are other components of yesterday's UH sanctions against McMackin.

At the Western Athletic Conference's Football Preview, McMackin spoke to a dozen print reporters about the upcoming season and used the word in reference to a clapping tradition at Notre Dame used to inspire the Irish, which defeated UH in last year's Hawaii Bowl. Most of the reporters were equipped with tape recorders, and a WAC video camera was on.

Realizing the impropriety of his remarks, McMackin asked the reporters to “;cover for me”; by not including the slur in their stories. “;I'll deny it,”; he said. “;I don't want to come out and have every homosexual ticked off at me. You know what I mean. Because I don't have any problem with homosexuals.”; He then told the reporters again that he would “;appreciate it if you wouldn't run that word.”;

McMackin said later, “;What I was trying to do was be funny and it wasn't funny.”; Disturbingly, some reporters can be heard on a tape laughing in apparent appreciation of the coach's attempt at humor.

Use of the aspersion has long been inappropriate even amid the towel-snapping atmosphere of a post-game locker room, as all sports have become known to include homosexual athletes, closeted or not. Mention of it at a formal news conference would have been deplorable decades ago, as gays and lesbians began to find acceptance in American society.

UH executives were quick to denounce McMackin's statement while describing it as uncharacteristic of the coach, the state's highest-paid employee with a $1.1 million annual salary. On his last day as UH president, David McClain said he was “;angered and disappointed,”; UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw called it “;highly regrettable, offensive and surprising to those of us who know him,”; and athletic director Jim Donovan called McMackin “;a good man”; who “;made a statement he shouldn't have made.”;

Hawaii has been a leader in granting rights to homosexuals in such areas as housing and employment, although it has yet to extend to them the right to marry. Hawaii is among several states that have extended certain rights to same-sex partners as “;reciprocal beneficiaries.”;

When a homosexual couple filed a lawsuit last year claiming denial of family housing at the Manoa campus, UH was quick to settle the case by allowing the couple to move into family housing. The Manoa campus welcomes students and athletes regardless of sexual orientation, and McMackin must demonstrate appreciation of that atmosphere.