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Jace Frederick: Amends won’t be easy, but Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards has to try

For many, the glowing perception of Edwards changed in seven seconds

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch and guard Anthony Edwards (1) discuss the previous play against the Chicago Bulls on April 10, 2022, at Target Center.
Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports
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For many, the glowing perception of Anthony Edwards changed in seven seconds.

That was the length of the video posted to his Instagram account over the weekend, in which the Timberwolves guard decided, while sitting in a car, to whip out his phone to negatively highlight a group of apparently gay men hanging out on a nearby sidewalk by essentially making fun of them before adding, “Look at what the world done came to.”

With that post, the 21-year-old who had brought much joy to basketball fans in recent years delivered a lot of pain to far more people. His comments hurt countless members of the LGBTQ+ community and should have angered us all.

Prior to last weekend, Edwards had been viewed as a vibrant, vivacious person with a magnetic quality that drew others to him and boosted those around him. It was part of his endearing charm that, paired with his scintillating basketball abilities, had Edwards’ star soaring.

That’s not to say he won’t continue to be a popular player. People manage to twist themselves into pretzels coming up with reasons as to why what their favorite sports star or political figure said or did wasn’t that bad or is easily forgivable, regardless of how obscene the words or actions. Life is easier that way.

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But there is a segment — and it may even be a large one, many of whom previously supported Edwards — who will now turn on the television, see the guard playing and, fair or not, simply think “that guy is a homophobe.” When he delivers a massive dunk or drops 40 points, they will think of that video, and his success will be difficult to stomach.

Their opinions won’t be swayed by the apology Edwards released via his Twitter account Sunday, in which he described his words as “immature, hurtful and disrespectful,” while adding there was no excuse for what he did.

Because actions speak louder than words. And Edwards’ actions painted himself in a different light than he previously had been viewed. This isn’t new in men’s professional sports, which consistently struggles to prove itself to be a truly inclusive space. We’ve seen a number of athletes use gay slurs to air their frustrations in the heat of the moment, which is indefensible in its own right.

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But Edwards specifically targeted a group of people. That is worse. Edwards’ age — he is only 21 years old — has been brought up in recent days as a defense or explanation. But stop and think for a moment: Did you say those words when you were 21?

What Edwards did was not a mistake, which we all make, but rather the revealing of a character flaw. We all have those, too, but some are more difficult to forgive.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community will now always wonder if Edwards — even if he has never met them — does not accept them for who they are. That’s a difficult reality for the face of any organization.

But that is the situation Edwards has put himself in, and now he must begin the lengthy, challenging process of changing it. His efforts must extend far beyond any apology or words. They will need to include consistent, sincere actions that demonstrate that the guard dug deep enough to truly see the error in his ways and is determined to right the wrong.

Amends won’t be easy to make, but Anthony Edwards has to try. Not only for his sake, but those he deeply hurt.

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