by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Ad Council joined the National Basketball Association (NBA) to debut a series of public service advertisements (PSAs) featuring Phoenix Suns stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley designed to address the use of anti-Gay language among teens on May 13.
According to GLSEN officials, the campaign includes new television, radio, print, and web ads, with the TV spot debuting May 15 during the NBA Conference Finals on ABC, TNT, and ESPN.
The PSAs are an extension of the award-winning 'Think Before You Speak' campaign and GLSEN's 'Changing the Game' initiative.
The TV spot can be previewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D_XLCmY0D8.
Nearly nine in ten LGBT teens report having been verbally harassed in the past school year, and almost half have been physically harassed based on their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey. Homophobic remarks such as 'that's so Gay' are the most commonly heard type of biased remarks at school, and nine in ten LGBT teens say they've heard 'Gay' used in a negative way frequently or often.
Created pro bono by ad agency ArnoldNYC, the new PSAs communicate that using words such as 'Gay' in a negative way has serious consequences.
In the TV spot, which was filmed in New York City and Phoenix, a teen says 'Gay' casually on the basketball court. Hill and Dudley call out that using 'Gay' when you mean something is 'dumb or stupid' is not acceptable and that the teens are 'better than that.'
New radio, print, and web PSAs similarly show how the use of anti-Gay language is not acceptable on the basketball court or anywhere else. The new PSAs direct audiences to visit ThinkB4YouSpeak.com to learn how to get involved and take a pledge against using anti-LGBT language.
A 16-year NBA veteran, Hill became the sixth player in league history to average at least 13 points per game last season at age 38 or older. Dudley appeared in all 82 games for the second consecutive season in 2010-11, averaging a career-high 10.6 points.
'The NBA is honored to work on this important campaign in partnership with GLSEN and the Ad Council,' said Kathy Behrens, NBA executive vice president of social responsibility and player programs. 'NBA players like Grant Hill and Jared Dudley know that words are powerful and they understand the impact they can have by encouraging young fans to think before they speak.'
The Ad Council is distributing the PSA to more than 1,600 TV stations nationwide this week and the ad will air in donated time. The NBA has committed to support the TV ad across their broadcast partners as well as on NBA TV and NBA.com. The league will also support the campaign through their social media assets, where they connect with more than 11 million fans.
'The NBA has been a tremendous partner from the moment we engaged them last year,' said Eliza Byard, GLSEN executive director. 'The NBA's support helps us start a conversation that hopefully will have a lasting impact with an incredibly engaged audience about the Think Before You Speak campaign's message of respect. Anti-LGBT language is one of the most pervasive forms of harassment in schools, and the casual use of phrases like 'that's so Gay' contributes to the hostile school climates that LGBT youth face across the country.'
GLSEN also recently launched 'Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project' (http://sports.glsen.org) to specifically address anti-LGBT behavior in K-12 sports and physical education and provide resources to support the new wave of the Think Before You Speak campaign.
'While Think Before You Speak has been remarkably successful in terms of raising awareness and influencing attitudes and behaviors, there are still far too many teens who do not realize the serious impact of their words,' said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. 'With NBA players teens look up to delivering the message, we will be able to break through and help teens understand that the casual use of this language carries over into more overt harassment and bullying.'
According to the Ad Council, high recognition of Think Before You Speak among teens (41% of teens aged 13-16 nationwide reporting that they have seen or heard at least one PSA) has translated into significant shifts in key attitudes and behaviors regarding the use of anti-LGBT slurs like 'that's so Gay.' For instance, findings from an Ad Council survey conducted in 2008 and 2009 of teens suggest that a higher percentage of teens think that people should not say 'that's so Gay' for any reason (38% in 2009 vs. 28% in 2008) and a higher percentage also report 'never' saying 'that's so Gay' when something is stupid or uncool (28% in 2009 vs. 18% in 2008).
'We've partnered with GLSEN and the Ad Council on Think Before You Speak for several years, and while we're proud to be able to turn our energy and talent toward changing negative behavior, there is unfortunately a lot more work to be done. This year alone there has been an overwhelming amount of news reporting on the devastating effects that harassment has on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender youth. The NBA deserves big kudos for stepping up to the plate and being a part of this important dialogue,' said John Staffen, chief creative officer of ArnoldNYC.
Previous PSAs for the campaign, which launched in October 2008, featured Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes asking teens if they 'realize what they say' when they use the phrase 'that's so Gay' to describe something negative. In the second year of the campaign, hard-hitting web-based materials challenged teens to think about the impact their language has on others. One banner ad recalled the story of Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old from Massachusetts who took his own life after enduring constant bullying at school. A badge was also created to track the occurrence of common LGBT slurs in real time on the popular micro-blogging site Twitter. Additionally, a polling tool was developed for bloggers to use on their sites, which features timely events to encourage thought and discussion on the subject of how anti-Gay language is used.
To date, Think Before You Speak, the Ad Council's first-ever LGBT-themed campaign, has received significant PSA placement and media coverage, combining more than $17.6 million worth of media exposure for the campaign's message since its launch in 2008.