Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tracy Morgan, Wrestlers Meet GLAAD Execs;
Barrios Avoids Gay Critics

(June 21 presser in Nashville. L to R: Kevin Rogers, Morgan, Herndon Graddick of GLAAD. Credit: Getty Images.)

After comedian Tracy Morgan made stupid and offensive comments during a stand-up routine last month, in which he said he'd kill his son if he were gay, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation launched a campaign against him. GLAAD demanded a few things, including having Morgan publicly meet a diverse collection of gay critics. He went on an apology tour, facing criticism and questions from community activists and mainstream reporters.

In a similar, but much less public vein, the advocacy group has been meeting for months with executives and wrestlers over several instances of homophobic speech uttered by the entertainers:

GLAAD is in discussions with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to train its on-air talent, including its performers, following another anti-gay outburst by a WWE personality over the 4th of July weekend. ...

As for how this fits in with our ongoing work with WWE, GLAAD provided training to members of WWE’s editorial staff and writing team in May, but because this event was not intended to be televised, and it took place during an unscripted interaction with the audience, none of the people we had already trained were involved.  As a result, we are now  in discussions with WWE to provide trainings to its on-camera talent, including the wrestlers themselves. ...

It fascinates me that GLAAD demands a comedian meet gays upset with his alleged funny routine, and the comedian agrees to do so with cameras rolling, while the group also arranges less public face-to-face briefings and trainings for WWE employees, all part of an accountability package crafted by GLAAD.

At the same time, however, GLAAD has ignored calls for soon-to-depart executive director Jarrett Barrios, other executives and board members to hold open forums with gay critics unhappy with lots of issues pertaining to the group.

Why is it GLAAD pressures comedians and television wrestlers to make themselves available for direct public criticism or trainings to improve their speech, but rebuffs being held to the same accountability standards for the gay community?

I'd like to see Barrios, his staffers and board members, organize a series of public forums at gay community centers across the country, and explain their behavior regarding their cozy relationship with AT&T and other corporations, stewardship failures and prove their relevancy. How pathetic is it that Barrios couldn't even go on a gay radio show and deal with community anger over GLAAD's meltdown?

And that is not enough. GLAAD folks need to be trained in democratic engagement and transparency - town halls, disclosure of sponsorship contracts, open board sessions, the immediate posting on their site of three-years' worth of IRS 990s and financial statements - as part of their rehabilitation with the community. (It's outrageous that GLAAD currently shares only one year's IRS 990 and financial statement.)

If Tracy Morgan can meet with gays angry with him, Jarrett Barrios and GLAAD leaders should be able to do the same.

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