The Prospector

UTEP community responds to anti-gay tweet

By William Vega

Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013

Bohannon

FILE PHOTO

Freshman center John Bohannon brought out mixed emotions after posting an anti-gay tweet June 6.

Students' reaction to an anti-gay comment made by John Bohannon, a freshman center on the UTEP basketball team, through his Twitter account has been mixed.

On June 6, Bohannon tweeted, "#letsbereal it is NOT cool to be gay! (Zro voice) *jordan shrug*."

Jeannie Tran, vice president for the Queer Student Alliance, said that Bohannon's tweet sends the message that being different is not cool. She also said that because of the hashtag in the tweet (#letsbereal), he is suggesting that choosing to be gay is also wrong.

Juanita Mendoza, senior kinesiology major, said that although the comment displays ignorance, Bohannon should have the freedom to say whatever he wants.

"I think (athletes) are free to say whatever they want. It's a free country, but you have to watch what you're saying because there are a lot of gay people everywhere," Mendoza said. "You could implement anything you want, but they're able to say whatever they want."

Bohannon issued the following apology through his Twitter account June 9.

"To those who were offended by my tweet a few days ago–didn't mean any disrespect by it as I do not judge anybody by their sexual preference," Bohannon tweeted. He added, "And would hope you would not judge me by one tweet. Thank you."

Jeff Darby, associate athletic director for media relations, said that Bohannon told him he was referencing a song by a rap artist named Z-RO. In his song, "These Days," one part of the lyrics reads, "Seems like today, it's cool to be gay."

The tweet was taken down June 7 sometime after 6 p.m. Darby said Bohannon took it down himself. UTEP Athletics Department declined to comment any further on the matter.

As the social media site gains popularity, according to the UTEP student-athlete handbook, there are no restrictions as to what can be posted by athletes. The NCAA has regulations toward recruiting-related tweets only.

According to the UTEP student-athlete code of conduct, players are expected to abide by certain citizenship responsibilities. Under that bulleted section, student-athletes are to "show respect for all members of the University community," "present a positive public demeanor at all times, on and off campus" and "act as a role model for young people and other student-athletes."

"Everybody could use a little bit of education. Everyone could be a little more open-minded," Tran said. "It's something we kind of need, especially in the athletics department. That seems to be the most homophobic realm in any college campus. It's really shocking."

Derek Benson, sophomore metallurgical engineering major, found Bohannon's comments upsetting.

"Is he homophobic? It's shocking. I don't know what his problem is. It's unbelievable," Benson said. "You hear, even in the NBA, people like (Lakers guard) Kobe Bryant and (forward Joakim Noah) from the Chicago Bulls use a gay slur and they got fined for it. Is he trying to be like Kobe Bryant just because? Does he have a hatred toward these types of people?"

More than a month after Bryant was caught on camera calling a referee a homophobic slur, the NBA has been making an effort to stop this type of behavior through their Think B4 You Speak campaign. The NBA joined forces with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to make national public service announcements.

As the NBA began cracking down on their players for such remarks, Bohannon found himself in hot water for other reasons. Bohannon played in every game this season except for two, but his actions on and off the court haunted him toward the end of his first year at UTEP.

One of the games Bohannon missed was the March 2 game against Marshall when he was suspended for a "lack of academic performance." Bohannon returned from suspension playing in the Miners' last five games scoring a total of 13 points over that span. Bohannon finished the season averaging 5.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 32 blocks while starting in 10 contests.

William Vega may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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