Yesterday Rutgers University fired its men’s basketball coach, Mike Rice, after video surfaced of him abusing his players both physically and verbally. In addition to kicking, shoving, and pelting them with basketballs, he used homophobic slurs against them including the f-word. After the video went viral, Rice was quick to apologize for the shameful behavior he had obviously been exhibiting remorselessly and with great vigor for years, but it was too little too late. His swift removal from the post was a victory against abuse in college sports, where student athletes already bear a ton of responsibility and pressure, for which many argue they are under-compensatedt.
Except that Fox News host Eric Bolling doesn’t view this as a positive development, apparently. He took the opportunity to go on TV not to condemn the coach’s inappropriate, abusive behavior but to bemoan the decision to fire him as emblematic of a climate of “political correctness” in America and to paint a picture of a “culture in free fall.” His full quote is below, and it actually gets more bizarre:
“We’re in the midst of political correctness crushing our ability to teach kids, to discipline kids, to disagree with people, one another or kids, our culture, our culture is in decline, but this is an example of our culture in free fall, and I’m saying because he got fired, not because of what he did. Look, there’s no question he should never have used gay slurs, that’s against all rules. But I’m not sure that’s what got him fired. I think going after one of the kids is what got him fired. Listen, it’s time to toughen up. I could talk about the wussification of America, the wussification of American men…Are we better off as a nation now with all the P.C. and with all the wimpifying, wussificating and basically making men Chihuahuas?”
I take offense to this on many levels, primarily in defense of Chihuahuas, those noble creatures that are perhaps the most misunderstood, maligned, and marginalized of lap dogs (“Yo quiero Taco Bell”? #DasRacist), and grammarians (Wussification? Yah, not a word).
Of course, the comments are also problematic in the sense that they further dangerous narratives tying masculinity to abusive, hateful behaviors and positioning manliness as somehow in opposition to gayness. These are the same narratives that encourage “real men” to perform violence and tell them that pain and humiliation are par for the course when it comes to manhood.
I’m aware that Fox News hosts says ridiculous things all the time. But this one is worth calling out because it’s part of the mentality that created coaches like Mike Rice and allowed him to perpetuate these masculinity myths to his students in abusive ways. This is what we talk about when we talk about a toxic culture of masculinity.