Kevin Jennings, a Rangers fan who is gay, said he stopped attending home games for about a month this season because he felt so uncomfortable with the homophobic epithets that are shouted to the players. Ray Stankes, 50, of Bayside, Queens, said he canceled season tickets he had had for 25 years in part because of the antigay environment. "This is a place where I grew up, and I never really felt uncomfortable at the Garden," Stankes said. "I didn't wear it on my sleeve that I'm gay. If I take a friend who is also gay who, for lack of a better term, is not as masculine, I'm always sitting there a little tense. Like, is somebody going to say something to us? And it's made it not quite as fun as it used to be."A Rangers spokesperson in the article said the offensive parties are (ironically) a minority, and some have been ejected from the arena for anti-gay remarks. Jennings, who is the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, offered to create PSAs to be shown in the arena "urging fans to be more respectful." The Rangers smartly declined, understanding that the same fans that booed when the New York City Gay Hockey Association's name was flashed on the scoreboard will do the same, and worse, for a video like that. Heck, they'll jeer a guy who gets the in-game trivia question wrong.
This is a problem no PSA or arena policy can solve. I grew up in the cheap seats in New York and Jersey, and I've been hearing about teams and players sucking or swallowing for as far back as I can recall. Sure, some media attention and pressure from advocacy groups could end chants of "Homo Larry" during dance routines at the Garden. But it'll take generations before using sexual orientation for public degradation is considered a cultural taboo at a hockey game.