UC Irvine Coach Russell Turner was proud to tell fans and the media that he and his team taunted Oregon Ducks player Louis King, by calling him “Queen.” But not everyone thought his “anti-woman” and “homophobic” name calling was funny.
In a post-game interview, Coach Turner said, “I was saying ‘double team Queen’ to try to see if I could irritate him. And I did. And I kept talking to my team about what we wanted to do. We were calling him Queen because I knew it might irritate him.”
Turner’s admission did not sit well with many. One such critic was USA Today sports editorialist Nancy Armour, who called Turner a woman hater and a homophobe.
“That’s right,” Armour said pointedly. “A 48-year-old man showing all the maturity of an 8-year-old to try to get an edge.”
Turner went on to insist that calling Louis King “Queen” was a “sign of respect” for his abilities. But critics like Armour were not convinced.
But that makes no sense. In the history of trash talk, nobody has ever used a chess analogy as an insult. Also, Turner was trying to rattle King by … complimenting him? So if the Anteaters had played Duke this year, he would have razzed Zion Williamson by calling him “leading scorer” or “first-round draft pick?”
Others echoed Armour’s criticism.
“Of course, that’s a bunch of bull trying to rationalize his indefensible behavior,” OutSports’s Cyd Zeigler wrote. “He knew that resorting to calling a male player ‘queen’ would rely on tired homophobic and sexist tropes in sports and, as he intended, in turn, taunt his opponent.”
Louis King’s mother was none too pleased with Turner’s flavor of “respect,” either.
Ativea King took to her Twitter account to demand that Turner publicly apologize.
“Since Russel Turner decided it was ok to try and publicly humiliate my son by calling him queen although he doesn’t get fazed by it. Me and his dad as his parents would like for him to publicly APOLOGIZE to Louis. It was in poor taste. The incident is trending all over Twitter,” she wrote.
Since Russel Turner decided it was ok to try and publicly humiliate my son by calling him queen although he doesn’t get fazed by it. Me and his dad as his parents would like for him to publicly APOLOGIZE to louis. It was in poor taste. The incident is trending all over Twitter
— Ativea King (@AtiveaG) March 25, 2019
Turner eventually did apologize for his taunting. The coach released a statement on Monday:
I recognize my actions were inappropriate and insensitive. I share UC Irvine’s belief that inclusivity and diversity are paramount values, and I apologize for not understanding that my actions during the game suggested otherwise.
I respect Oregon’s men’s basketball program, its student-athletes, and its coaches. Since the conclusion of the game, I have spoken to Louis, his parents, and Oregon’s head coach Dana Altman. They have graciously accepted my explanation and apology.
It all didn’t help Turner even on the court because King scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half and helped lead the Oregon Ducks to a 73-54 win over Turner’s Anteaters.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.