Alistair Overeem appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani yesterday. He was there mainly to talk about the announcement that he would fight Rico Verhoeven in his first fight since returning to the sport of kickboxing.
During the conversation with Helwani, talk veered into the realm of pro wrestling. When the former UFC, PRIDE and Strikeforce fighter was asked his opinion on that form of entertainment he gave an ignorant and offensive answer that framed anyone and anything belonging to the LGBTQIA2S+ community as inherently bad.
Here’s exactly what he said (ht MMA Fighting):
“The thing is with that whole wrestling thing, I watched it when I was 8, 9, 10 years old. Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, huge fan of those guys. Honky Tonk Man. Great, funny. Andre The Giant. I stopped watching after that, so I’m not watching since [1992, 1993, 1994].
“And just recently, I started looking again on YouTube, and oh my God, this stuff is lame. It’s just lame what these guys are doing. It’s fake. It’s lame. It’s stupid. It’s gay. It doesn’t make any sense.
“It’s lame. It’s not even a sport. It’s just lame. It’s bad acting. It’s just lame. Sorry for all the fans of WWE, but I’m just being honest. I’m just giving my opinion. Free country, right? I think it’s lame, and because I hadn’t seen it for 20 years. I never watched Brock fight. I never watched CM Punk fight. I knew they were from WWE.”
Outsports spoke to Helwani about this portion of the interview. That outlet reported that Helwani “was clearly shaken by the comment” and that he “apologized for Overeem’s homophobia.”
“I’m really sorry that happened,” he said. “I wish he didn’t say that to describe his stance on pro wrestling. I know Alistair to be a good, decent person and debated whether I should say something in the moment. You could see my wheels turning in the moment. I’ll debate that for a while. I am genuinely sorry to anyone who was offended by the comment.”
Regardless of the intent of Overeem’s use of the word ‘gay’ as well as the ableist words ‘lame’ and ‘stupid’, the impact of those words was an equating of something he thought was bad and inauthentic with queer and disabled people.
Anti-gay and ableist language, whether said casually or within some kind of confrontation, negatively affects the well-being of queer and disabled people and contributes to the isolation, vulnerability and trauma those communities experience today.
Further reading on the impacts of anti-gay language can be found below:
Tackling homophobic language by Stonewall UK.
Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health: Stigma and Discrimination by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tips for Allies of Transgender People by GLAAD.
Coming Out: Living Authentically as Black LGBTQ People by Human Rights Campaign.
Inclusive Language Guide by Oregon Health & Science University Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
Further reading on ableism and ableist language can be found below:
The Harmful Ableist Language You Unknowingly Use by BBC.
Why You Need To Stop Using These Words and Phrases by Harvard Business Review.
How To Avoid Using Ableist Language by Dear Everybody.
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