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By Frank Parlato

Last week we went viral.

Around the internet on various sites catering to hockey fans and to a lesser extent homosexuals, the Niagara Falls Reporter and columnist Lenny Palumbo were criticized for publishing something many thought should not be published.

What caused the commotion was that Mr. Palumbo criticized a promotional campaign that features NHL hockey players who suggest homosexuality is no bar to playing hockey and oppose any discrimination against players based on sexual orientation.

Mr. Palumbo, who has a young son, finds this promotional campaign offensive and says he does not believe a homosexual lifestyle is morally appropriate. He cites religious and personal beliefs.

These are the words Mr. Palumbo used that seem to have offended a number of people, not all of whom are gay:
“The (NHL) is determined to reduce fighting as much as possible. Meanwhile, the NHL's abominable ‘You Can Play’ promotion, which all but endorses homosexuality in hockey, is among its top priorities. Thanks to Gary Bettman (commissioner of the NHL) and his ilk, enforcers are out but gays are in. So why don't they just hire Elton John as commissioner and be done with it?

“Fortunately for Sabres fans, the team has not come out of the closet and the signing of tough guy, John Scott is an indication there might be some shred of manliness left in an otherwise emasculated organization that has much to prove in 2012-13.”

Within hours of Mr. Palumbo’s article being published, it was denounced on websites and blogs. The popular website www.deadspin.com, which describes its contents as “Sports News without Access, Favor, or Discretion,” posted an article entitled, “Today In Insanely Homophobic Statements From Small-Town Sports Columnists.”

“I don't think we need to go into why (Mr. Palumbo’s article) is so f--- up,” wrote deadspin writer Barry Petchesky. “There's plenty of logic-based Palumbo smackdown at Pension Plan Puppets and Battle of California (other websites), should you want some. Instead, we'll just eagerly wait for the day when a Buffalo enforcer also happens to be gay, and Lenny Palumbo's Neolithic brain explodes.”

The “smackdown” referred to in www.pensionplanpuppets.com included a declaration that “Lenny Palumbo is an outmoded homophobe.”

After quoting Mr. Palumbo, Pension Plan Puppet writer, “Skinny Fish,” in language perhaps not less offensive than the language that offended him so much, asks, “What sort of tripe is this?” then answers the question, it is “a homophobic rant” and Mr. Palumbo “a Cro-Magnon.”

Skinny Fish asks if it might be in the “best interests” of the Reporter “to part ways with people like Lenny Palumbo who will only serve to keep your publication firmly rooted in the past with the rest of the bigots, homophobes, and ignorant masses?”
More “smackdown” was found at the www.battleofcali.com, where it was posted that “Lenny Palumbo is a Piece of Garbage,” and described how wrong Mr. Palumbo was to make rude and offensive comments about gays.

A second offering on the site is “Lenny Palumbo's Internal Monologue While He Shops for Groceries.” It begins, “We're going into the mind of a deranged man so reader discretion is advised.” The article targets Mr. Palumbo. A fictional character named after him is shown revealing he is a racist, anti Semitic, homosexual-hating, Hispanic-hating, self centered dunce unaware of the fact he is gay.

These and other articles demonstrate that while the writers may or may not have the tolerance to take it, they have the ability to dish it out.

Sportsgrid.com criticizes Mr. Palumbo’s “odiously-phrased ‘gays are in’ (they’re coming for us, they’re coming for us!) (and) the equally-odiously-phrased “all but endorses homosexuality in hockey,” which is terrible because again, he apparently fears that the scary gays, newly accepted by hockey culture, are going to sneak into the NHL’s arenas under the cover of darkness and program every video board to show an endless loop of RuPaul’s Drag Racereruns.”

The atmosphere of stifling debate with scathing criticism is hinted at in www.rainbowmasochism.blogspot where Alex posts: “If you haven't heard about it yet (and you will eventually), a Niagara Falls Reporter writer, Lenny Palumbo, has published an article containing some damning anti-gay language. Just in case the Falls Reporter wants to pull this article and pretend this never happened, I have taken the liberty of copying the text of the article and saving it here.”

Other Web sites and blogs posted anti-Palumbo “smackdown” in self-righteously angry and crude intolerance of free speech. Many posted anonymously. One implied violence might be appropriate.

A couple of local sites registered criticism. The Art Voice blog, in more measured tone, criticized the offending language and suggested it was the publisher’s “regressive” world view that allowed it to be published.

A website called www.thegoosesroost.com focused on the Reporter: “Having to explain the Niagara Falls Reporter to people is always embarrassing,” writes Ryan. After quoting the offending Palumbo paragraphs, Ryan adds, “I know what you’re thinking: How did this even make its way to print? Good question. If you’ve never read the Reporter before, this kind of rhetoric isn’t out of place...

“The worst part about this is that it gets read. Palumbo’s foray into hockey talk will come and go, but his slimy rhetoric has found its place in the ‘media.’ Go to a local diner in the falls and the elderly swap stories over the Reporter more often than a real newspaper. There is an audience for this kind of dreck.”

From outside the area we were offered a view of our community.

Alex from blackbluegold.wordpress.com posted “I’m not sure if anyone at (the Reporter) is aware, but last year Williamsville native Jamey Rodemeyer took his life at the age of 14 because he was being bullied online. Bullied with the type of language your paper has attached its name to in allowing Palumbo to pen such nonsense.

“This isn’t the 60’s and gays aren’t resigned to the closet anymore. In fact, Buffalo has such a thriving gay community that American Airlines nominated them in an international contest as the United States’ most up and coming gay city. To put it quite simply, we are everywhere, and we are only growing in support and number. Starbucks, General Mills, Microsoft, Google and Facebook have all made donations to pro-LGBT causes in the last six months. Running this article is akin to cultural suicide.”

In addition to internet, the Reporter got numerous calls and dozens of emails. Some said they called and emailed our advertisers asking them to stop advertising with us.

Many letters called for the Reporter to fire Mr. Palumbo. Others chastised the Reporter for publishing his opinion. (See letters to the editor.) A few supported Mr. Palumbo.

Mr. Palumbo has indicated he will not apologize for his comments (see Palumbo column). The Reporter has decided not to fire Mr. Palumbo or withdraw his article.



Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com July 24 , 2012