You’ve Been Kiss-Cammed At Wizards games, a homophobic gimmick quietly ends.

In the tactical battleground that is modern professional basketball, there’s a variety of opinion regarding just what represents the best countermeasure available to players who’ve fallen victim to the Great NBA Kiss-Cam Ambush.

Here’s the setup: The horn sounds for a time out. The teams go to their benches. And, lest the fans grow bored as the players strategize, cameras prowl the stands to focus on couples, who are duly displayed up on the Jumbo-Tron, surrounded by a heart and encouraged to kiss for the cheering crowd. Pro-sports kiss-camming has been around since teams began enhancing the arena televisual experience a couple decades back. Somewhere along the line, a home-team wiseacre invented the Kiss-Cam Ambush, in which the footage of lovebirds in the audience elides into a final shot of a pair of players from the opposing team.

Because, you see, there’s nothing quite as insulting to the rival squad as suggesting that two of their guys might want to kiss each other.

The ambush is sufficiently well established that, by now, it has a bunch of regional variations. In Atlanta, cameras are liable to expand the pool of ambushees to include same-sex spectators who happen to be wearing the opposing team’s jersey. In Oklahoma City, they’ll occasionally show two referees or the local announcers. At one Los Angeles Lakers game, the kiss-cam zoomed in on Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman. Who, of course, kissed.

Likewise, most players seem to have settled on a response in advance. This year at the Verizon Center, J.J. Redick of the Orlando Magic tried to hide himself under a towel until the coast was clear. Jarrett Jack and Aaron Gray of the New Orleans Hornets sneaked glances at the screen while pretending to focus on the game. James Posey of the Indiana Pacers gave his Jumbo-Tron image an obdurate stare, a pointed index finger resting on his temple. Marcin Gortat of the Phoenix Suns stuck his tongue out behind the head of a rookie teammate. And Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics pursed his lips while teammate Kendrick Perkins shielded his face from view.

But, for players visiting Washington, at least, this one piece of basketball’s mental game ended in January. Just before a game against the Denver Nuggets, the Wizards stopped running the Kiss-Cam Ambush gimmick. (The team played its last home game of the season Monday night.)

What happened? Team spokesman Brian Sereno indicates that the practice was halted due to a complaint—though he won’t say exactly who didn’t think it was that funny. By email, owner Ted Leonsis declines comment.

This isn’t the first time a kiss-cam proved controversial. A couple years ago, the Washington Mystics’ managing partner told The Washington Post that she’d be uncomfortable with a kiss-cam that focused on same-sex couples—despite the Women’s National Basketball Association team’s significant lesbian following. The dubious explanation: “We got a lot of kids here... we just don’t find it appropriate.”

But in abandoning the ambush, the Wizards, who share an owner and a stadium with the Mystics, have won some plaudits. “When they show opposing players, clearly they’re just doing it for fun and to make them feel awkward,” says Brent Minor, a spokesman for TeamDC, a gay and lesbian sports-advocacy organization. Minor won’t say that there was anything intentionally homophobic about the ambushes. “But it does raise the larger question of if somebody was actually gay; there is sensitivity to that. So I think it was probably the best course of action,” he says.

Those looking for signs of gay-friendliness in pro sports can find plenty of local examples, many of them at 7th and F streets NW. The Wizards hosted a GLBT community night on March 2. And Leonsis, who also owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals, has used his own blog to tout Puck Buddies, a site advertised as being “for boys who like boys who like hockey.” TeamDC is having an inaugural event at a Mystics game this summer. Of course, they’re also working with the Washington Nationals for their seventh annual “Night OUT” at the ballpark this June, according to Minor.

But the change may not have been about being respectful of the people in the audience at all: In a subsequent conversation, Sereno says concern for visiting players’ feelings was a factor.

NBA players, though, profess not to find kiss-cam ambushes especially insulting. “They put me on it the last time I was here,” says ex-Wizard Etan Thomas, now of the Atlanta Hawks. “It’s funny. I don’t know. I don’t look at it as deep as I guess everyone else who talks about it looks at it. It’s funny, so I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

“It’s pretty funny,” says former Georgetown Hoya Roy Hibbert, who plays for the Indiana Pacers. “A couple times they’ve had it on myself and one of my teammates, and I’ll fake like I’m pulling him in for a kiss or something like that. But I’ll only do it if I’m having a good game, if we’re winning.”

Hibbert says he wasn’t surprised to see the gimmick come to an end here. “I grew up in D.C., and D.C. is a very political city, very liberal, so I understand where people are coming from,” Hibbert says. “I think it’s a fun thing, but obviously if complaints were made, then you got to take it seriously.”

Jack Kogod, one of the founders of the popular NFL blog Kissing Suzy Kobler, a site whose name tells of when kissing on camera teeters between comical and uncomfortable, says he hopes the decision was motivated by something bigger. “I’d like to see a closeted player be able to come out while still in the league,” says Kogod, whose family has held Wizards season tickets for decades. “Using mock-homosexuality for laughs is getting us further away from that point in time… I can understand why they’ve done it at games in the past, people do laugh. That doesn’t mean it’s something that should continue.”

When someone finally writes the history of gay rights in sports, the story of an openly gay active player in one of the big four American pro sports leagues will be a huge deal. But, all the same, the slow disappearance of practices like the Kiss-Cam Ambush—premised on the notion that same-sex kisses are inherently insulting—ought to count as a bit of progress, too.

Not that there aren’t battles left to fight, even in Leonsis’ comparatively benevolent stadium: The kiss-cam continues, and, so far, the couples are always opposite-sex.

Our Readers Say

This isn't progress. Straight males don't want to be confused as, considered, or called gay.
Perhaps this isn't homophobic... perhaps the fact that 2 people who aren't a couple being put on kiss cam (male/male or male/female) is just funny...

Yay LIberals!
I think the kisscam is totally obnoxious and intrusive. It should be done away with altogether. I had to accompany a member of the opposite sex from another culture to a sports event for a professional reason. We both were very uncomfortable and awkward as the kisscam moved around the stadium. Even if you have a committed heterosexual couple in the stands they may have had a fight and not feel like kissing. How about if they are having an extramarital affair? People go to a sports event to watch a GAME not to be publicly humiliated or ridiculed.
I guess this makes me crass and juvenile but man did I get a kick out of that thing. Oh well. Better that one person goes unoffended I guess.
i wish they would do away with it all together. i usually go to games with my little brother (we're both in our 20s) and have been put on the screen. once i just hid my face and was booed... the cam moved on to another couple (a real one) then came back to us. i wanted badly to flick off the cameras but instead yelled "he's my brother!!!" with a beet-red face. luckily it drew laughter, but wow. so uncool. i go to way more caps games than wizards games, and i'm so glad they have the sense NOT to do a kiss cam. i dread that tv time-out every time i go to a wiz game.
man you guys are losers who dread being on the kiss cam...

who cares?? it's funny any time people are put into awkward situations be it mm ff mf fm mmm fff mfm fmf === any time people are uncomfortable it is hilarious!!!

More kiss cam please!!!!!!!
Yawn. There's got to be something more serious to get offended about. Didn't a man of questionable homosexuality criticize Glee this week?
"...the footage of lovebirds in the audience elides into a final shot...."
""...*elides* into a final shot...""??

When I don't know what a word means and I look it up in the dictionary, that's okay, I guess, but when I have to look a word up because your reporter - and apparently your editor, too - don't know what it means that's just not fair to me. Boo.
Two comments:

First, if you are truly uncomfortable at the very idea of KissCam (Mitch I am talking to you), you likely have bigger problems to handle. Perhaps you should take your business associates from other cultures to dinner to avoid the excruciating anxiety created by KissCam. At some point, we have to call bs on people taking offense at everything.

Second, "elides" is used inappropriately here. I know the writer wants to sound smart, but actually achieves the opposite effect. Is an editor looking at this thing?

A lifestyle choice that promotes the death of its nation? Of course you don't want to encourage that. A lifestyle that's all about me? Of course you don't really want to promote that in the end.

Heterosexuals are being targeted by incompetent and devious individuals called the LGB community just because heterosexuals promote.....a family! Gosh, who knew that children come from the sexual intercourse between a man AND a woman? (amazing stuff really) considered an insult to gays for the exact reason they know its morally wrong and and lust after society also giving them the thumbs up.

As Christ said so Himself, you cannot serve two masters. You will either hate one and love the other. As a society, we must choose whether to uphold what is moral and true, and to consider the future and our choice's consequences before mindlessly claiming bigotry to normal people who follow God's command in being fruitful and multiplying on the Earth.

And for the record, there is no such thing as a gay person (all science proves there is ZERO evidence of the mythical "gay" gene). Just someone who needs a little guidance...and some love....because we are all made in His image anyways.
Jesus was known to kiss men on the mouth and he had 12 boyfriends. I think we all should approve if this were on cam.

Leave a Comment

Note: HTML tags are not allowed in comments.
Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.