Jenna Wegner is a lifelong Timberwolves fan who, in the last difficult and tumultuous years, has realized “once and for all” that she is a woman. She began taking steps to live as herself and began the medical transition process.
Among the many difficult personal moments that this entailed, the Wolves, and especially guard Anthony Edwards, were a source of joy for the Minneapolis native.
“Ant was a big part of that joy, both as a player and as a person off the pitch,” said Wegner. “She was fast on her way to overtake Ricky [Rubio] like my favorite modern wolf. “
Then Wegner, like other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Wolves fans, experienced many upsetting emotions after Edwards posted a video on Instagram in which he used homophobic language. Wegner said seeing the video was “a punch in the stomach”.
“I have been mocked and called insults by many people [for my appearance]”Wegner said.” Cry about it for a while and carry on knowing you’ll never see those people again. But knowing that someone you really admire, who will constantly be a presence in the media you consume or in the city you live in, would probably laugh at you too or call you an insult, is just demoralizing. “
Wegner is one of more than two dozen Timberwolves LGBTQ fans who have spoken to the Star Tribune since the video surfaced to say they were disappointed, dismayed and hurt by what the 21-year-old Wolves star said. The Instagram post showed him calling a group of men on a sidewalk “queer” in a derogatory way adding, “Look what the world has come to, man.”
“I want to see him sit down with members of the LGBTQ community and talk to them and understand where experiences are shared, where things like discrimination are shared among marginalized groups.”
Edwards, who is entering the third year of a $ 44.3 million four-year contract, was fined $ 40,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for the video. His agency, Klutch Sports Group, did not respond to requests for further statements. On Monday the Wolves will open the training camp.
Edwards’ charismatic personality off the pitch and electric potential on the pitch have made him a fan favorite, including many LGBTQ fans. But in the wake of his video, many of these fans have mixed feelings about cheering for Edwards and their favorite team, wondering if they could attend the matches in person and wanting more from him and the team in terms of apology and responsibility. Only a few of the fans the Star Tribune spoke to for this article claimed that what Edwards posted wasn’t a big deal.
“He gave homophobes a voice,” said Eric Boogaard, a gay fan of Rogers’ Wolves. “He almost gave them a poster boy. ‘He looks at this big name, he feels that way. It’s okay to feel that way.’
“Keeps control of LGBT people away from sport. Keeps the gate to say you’re not welcome here.”
Sport has traditionally been a difficult place for LGBTQ people to feel welcome, in part because homophobic language can be part of the sports vernacular. Edwards’ video aroused unwelcome feelings for many.
Ben Draper lives in England and became a Wolves fan thanks to Edwards.
“The reason it was so painful for the LGBT community is that it made an example of all of us,” said Draper, who is not binary. “He made us feel like we were something to laugh about, just a punchline.”
The next step
Edwards apologized via Twitter. For many, this wasn’t enough to show that he is truly sorry. Some would like to know more from him.
“You don’t hear your tone or intention with a tweet,” said Tobias Johnson, a Savage fan who is bisexual. “I think it’s something that needs to be rectified in front of a camera and a microphone and saying, ‘I’m really sorry.’ “
Others would like to see Edwards work with LGBTQ groups and use his social media platform to condemn and denounce hateful language.
“He has to do a big push to show us that this isn’t his personality,” said Amber Keyes, a Stillwater Wolves fan who is transgender. “… I want to see him sit down with members of the LGBTQ community and talk to them and understand where experiences are shared, where things like discrimination are shared among marginalized groups.”
Edwards’ comments prompted many LGBTQ Wolves fans to analyze their fandom. Keyes said she has a “Thurskii” shirt, which is based on a word Edwards likes to say often, and wore it to bed. She doesn’t do it anymore.
“[Edwards’ words] gave a voice to the homophobes. He almost gave them a poster boy. He looks at this great name, he feels that way. It’s okay to feel that way. ‘ “
Ben Pourier, a Minneapolis fan who is gay, said he plays about 20 games a season and hears the Wolves box office frequently. He was put off by the team’s lack of response, beyond a statement from President Tim Connelly, and some fans on social media who defended Edwards’ words.
“Nothing makes me want to talk [the Wolves] right now, “said Pourier.” … I read stuff on Twitter and people just don’t understand. “
There is an “asterisk”
Pourier said he’ll still be happy when Edwards gets it right: his Wolves fandom hasn’t stopped. Other fans have felt the same way, they simply won’t be able to fully enjoy the success as they once were.
“I think there’s a little asterisk there that says to me, ‘Damn, he said it,'” Johnson said.
Keyes added, “I’ll keep looking at the box score every morning and I’ll be happy if Ant is in the 20s, but only from a basketball point of view. I’m not going to buy his jersey, whereas before I would have.” .
Boogaard said he wasn’t sure if he would feel welcome to attend Wolves’ games.
“I’m sure there are people at the Timberwolves games who are homophobic. That’s a fact,” Boogaard said. “My voice isn’t exactly the most masculine voice. If I speak, will I listen to the comments?
“I want to believe this is something someone can learn from and I’d like to believe it was a bad choice of words and we grow from there.”
There is hope in this group of fans that Edwards will learn from what happened, that he will take the time to understand why what he said was painful and repair the damage done. The ball is in Edwards’ court to take that responsibility seriously in order to regain some of the confidence he has lost.
“I hope he becomes an even more extraordinary person than I initially thought,” said Sabrina Hiller, a Wolves subscription holder of St. Paul who is pansexual. “But until I see personal growth, not just the growth that everyone is talking about on the pitch, I think I’m okay with Ant for a while.”