Transgender Activists Compare NBA-Themed Commercials to Blackface

YouTube/Meet the Hoopers
YouTube/Meet the Hoopers

Transgender advocates are bashing State Farm insurance commercials featuring NBA players dressed in drag as “painful” to transgender people.

According to The Washington Times, Susan Maasch of the Transgender Youth Equality Foundation said:

Some insist that drag is simply entertainment, but to use something that’s sort of an entertainment factor, or poking fun, or laughing about gender or nonconforming behavior or gender variance or anything like that is pretty painful to anybody who really is marginalized.

Maasch and her organization are offended by a series of State Farm commercials entitled “Meet the Hoopers” that show seven-foot Los Angeles Clippers star DeAndre Jordan as the “mom” of a fictional family dressed in a blonde wig, earrings, and women’s clothing.

“I do think the comparison [to blackface] is valid,” Maasch said, referring to early 1900s minstrel shows featuring white actors wearing blackface paint. “I do think it’s certainly valid when you listen to the voices of people who are affected by it. We do hear it a lot. We really do.”

However, NBA stars have been dressing up in women’s clothes for commercial purposes for decades.

In 1990, former NBA great Larry Johnson donned a wig and a flower-laden gown in a series of Converse Aeroglide basketball shoe commercials.

A generation of Americans, young and old, thought fondly of Larry Johnson’s portrayal of “Grandmama.”

In 2012, much-beloved NBA legend Charles Barkley wore a wig and a black dress in a Weight Watchers Commercial. And, again, there were no transgender activists calling for boycotts of Weight Watchers.

However, Maasch believes that these kinds of campaigns are “hurtful” and help perpetuate the idea that it is acceptable to deride those who look or dress differently.

“It’s amazing to me that any company now, with all that’s going on in the sensitivity for transgender people, and the bills that are going on everywhere and causing a lot of anger, that they would do anything that could be insensitive that way,” Ms. Maasch said. “It’s a bad choice — probably a bad choice that they didn’t think out very well. And it is hurtful.”

State Farm, for its part, said in a statement that it “was never [their] intent to offend anyone.”

“Our goal with this specific campaign was to appeal to NBA fans by highlighting fun interactions between players off the court,” the company said according to The Washington Times.

Coincidentally, the NBA has threatened to move its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, in response to that state’s law banning people from using public facilities of the opposite sex.

“The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events,” the NBA said in a statement, adding, “We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson.