Bob Huggins’ moral code at WVU doesn’t apply to him, a bigot and liar
Bob Huggins isn’t just a bigot, he’s a liar.
He’s told players throughout his 40-year career that “there are consequences for our words and actions.” Yet he had no problem accepting the equivalent of a finger wag from his bosses at West Virginia on Wednesday for his all-too-easy use of a homophobic slur, an offense that should have gotten him fired.
West Virginia administrators discredited themselves and the school by putting a winning basketball team above common decency and respect. But if Huggins actually believed that moral code he’s been “teaching” his players, he’d have stepped down as soon as audio of him using the slur – not once, but twice – became public.
Instead, Huggins will miss the first three games next season, all of which are likely to be gimmes. He’s also taking a $1 million pay cut – oh, how ever will he live on $3.2 million a year! – and the almost-70-year-old coach is now on a year-to-year contract. Oh, he has to put in a few performative hours at sensitivity training, too.
Then it’s back to business as usual, the lesson to Huggins’ players, West Virginia’s LGBTQ athletes and students, and everyone else that intolerance and hate are perfectly acceptable.
Especially when it’s directed toward a group that’s become the right wing’s favorite new punching bag.
“While the University has never and will never condone the language used on Monday, we will use this moment to educate how the casual use of inflammatory language and implicit bias affect our culture, our community and our health and well-being,” university president E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Wren Baker said in a statement.
Sure. Imagine if Huggins had used a racial or ethnic slur. Do you really think he’d still have a job? Of course he wouldn’t. But after years of growing acceptance legally and socially, discrimination against the LGBTQ community is on the rise again.
Right-wing hate groups like Moms of Liberty are pushing “Don’t say gay” laws and trying to ban books that don’t conform to their white, heteronormative world view, and Republican politicians are gladly going along with them. Conservative attorneys are trying to whittle away legal protections for LGBTQ people.
The contempt for transgender people is particularly vile. Despite less than 1% of the U.S. population 13 and older identifying as transgender, hatemongers are trying to marginalize them out of existence. What began with laws to prevent transgender girls from playing sports has become efforts to prohibit gender-affirming care for people of all ages.
No wonder Huggins felt so free to express his bigotry. The term he used might have been more crass, but the sentiment is the same as what’s being normalized in state houses, school board meetings and on social media, especially in Republican-led states.
Why, just two months ago, West Virginia passed laws that ban gender-affirming care and allow religion to be used as an excuse for discrimination. Of course the state’s flagship school wasn’t going to hold Huggins accountable in any real manner.
“I have had several conversations with colleagues and friends that I deeply respect and admire over the last 24 hours,” Huggins said in a statement, “and I am keenly aware of the pain that I have caused.”
Is he really, though? Does he have any idea how deeply his words must have cut for the LGBTQ athletes and students at West Virginia? Does he understand what it must have been like to hear the most towering and influential figure at the university – heck, the entire state – demean and diminish their very being?
And to then have the university insult them further with Huggins’ laughable punishment? How can they ever feel valued, or safe, at West Virginia again? Every time they see or hear Huggins, or watch the university celebrate him, they’ll be reminded that West Virginia put men’s basketball above their inclusion and well-being.
Huggins was right Monday when he said words and actions have consequences. Just not for him.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.