An NBA player and a former NFL player added strong voices to the chorus of athletes, journalists and others who pushed back over the weekend at Donald Trump’s characterization of his lewd comments about women as merely “locker room talk.”
Marvin Williams of the Charlotte Hornets and Chris Kluwe, a former NFL punter, were horrified to find their workplace lumped into the “locker room banter” defense waged by Trump and his surrogates over his comments about grabbing women’s genitals.
Williams called the material on the 2005 video, published over the weekend by The Washington Post, “pretty disturbing. I have a daughter. To think that is the way guys talk doesn’t make me feel very well.”
Williams said he’s never heard the like of what Trump said in a conversation with Billy Bush, then with “Access Hollywood.” “I don’t know what locker rooms he hangs out in or what they talk about, but I have never heard that in any locker room and I hope I never do,” Williams, who is 30, said (via the Charlotte Observer) Monday.
“Not in any locker room. Not in high school, not in college, not professional, not recreational. I’ve never heard any man talk of anything of that nature. Guys in the locker room, they laugh and they joke but I’ve never heard anyone say anything even close to [those words].”
Kluwe, who played for the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, has not been active in the NFL since 2013, and he said Trump’s comments were off the mark, using Kluwe’s usual frank and breezy style.
“How do I know this? Simple. I was in an NFL locker room for eight years, the very definition of the macho, alpha male environment you’re so feebly trying to evoke to protect yourself, and not once did anyone approach your breathtaking depths of arrogant imbecility,” he wrote on Vox. “Oh, sure, we had some dumb guys, and some guys I wouldn’t want to hang out with on any sort of regular basis, but we never had anyone say anything as foul and demeaning as you did on that tape, and, hell, I played a couple years with a guy who later turned out to be a serial rapist. Even he never talked like that.”
Just what do professional football players discuss? Money, travel, family, jokes (some dirty, some not) and, yes, women and sex.
“We talk about wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, fans, and groupies. Most guys respect women, some guys don’t, but never have I heard anyone use your particularly disgusting brand of sadism that refers to women as objects and not people,” wrote Kluwe, who is the father of two daughters. “Even the most debauched club-hopping party animal talks about women more civilly than you. We don’t let each other talk like that about women, because it lessens our humanity, and even though we’re modern-day gladiators, we still hold ourselves accountable to the idea of basic human decency.”
Journalists said they haven’t witnessed that sort of conversation, either. Personally, as someone whose job has required being in locker rooms over the years, I can say that locker room talk can be coarse, crass and uncomfortable — but it’s unfair to athletes to characterize Trump’s comments as “locker room talk.” Even an athlete who threw a blow dryer at me never spoke this way. Nor did one who called my presence in the locker room “a threat to the American family.” Granted, time in the locker room is limited, and athletes are aware of the presence of members of the media, but talk like Trump’s just doesn’t happen.
Kluwe and Williams were echoing athletes across sports, like Brett Anderson, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who asked on Twitter: “What kind of [expletive] up locker rooms has Donald Trump been in….” Atlanta Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme tenaciously agreed it just isn’t that way in his league.
Tamme used Twitter to engage in conversation. One person responded that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, had boasted about his crimes, and Tamme pointed out that players police their locker rooms.
“So IMO our locker room has as much moral ground as any to stand up to attempt to normalize disgusting speech,” he tweeted to one person, adding “that’s another topic” when the NFL’s handling of domestic violence cases was pointed out.
Tamme had had enough as he watched the debate after the Falcons’ victory over Denver.
“Please stop saying ‘locker room talk,’ ” Tamme wrote in a 9:12 p.m. tweet that has been shared more than 400 times and liked more than 850. “It’s not normal. And even if it were normal, it’s not right.”
As far as Tamme is concerned, talk is talk and all of this sort of banter is just not right. ” ‘Locker room talk’ isn’t my main concern. ‘Cigar bar talk,’ frat house talk’ — all equally wrong,” he tweeted.
Kluwe’s Vox post expanded on a dialogue he started with a tweet Monday.
One reader responded: “I’ve been playing hockey for 15 years. That is not locker room talk. Unacceptable.” Another wrote: “I played college baseball … heard some goofy stuff. nothing like what Trump said.” A woman wrote: “This tweet made me cry thank you for a raindrop of decency on this desert floor of rape culture.”
Another sought to lighten the conversation by pointing out that Kluwe was a little unorthodox. “I picture your locker room talk as a cross between ‘I had the most awesome burrito for lunch’ and ‘COD’ [Call of Duty video game] tonight anyone?”
C.J. McCollum, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA, said he hadn’t heard comments like Trump’s in any locker room, and Doc Rivers, coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, agreed. “That’s a new locker room for me,” he told TMZ.
Scott Baio, the actor and Trump supporter who spoke at the Republican convention, responded to a Twitter reader, “Remind me again how many times you’ve been in a locker room, golf course, or anywhere men didn’t know you were around? Wake up.”
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley noted that it’s a generalization to say that locker rooms aren’t like that, but tweeted, “The guys I know and respect don’t talk like that. They talk about girls but not like that.”
Sean Doolittle, the 30-year-old Oakland A’s pitcher, tweeted that he has been in locker rooms “my entire adult life and, uh, that’s not locker room talk.”
Sage Rosenfels, 38, who spent 12 years in the NFL and played for the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, New York Giants and Vikings, tweeted Friday that “guys don’t talk like that in locker rooms.” His tweet has been shared more than 1,700 times and liked over 3,200.
The NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan and USA Today’s Lindsay Jones shared experiences that have been similar to mine in covering athletes in locker rooms:
One retired sports writer wrote on Facebook that “the Trump language is more likely to come from the mouths of sports executives and fellow sports writers over dinner rather than from players in the locker room.”
The latest debate and the video had Twitter buzzing, with #LockerRoomTalkIn5Words trending. Some of the non-profane responses were amusing.