Triple NBL champion and Perth Wildcats guard Corey Webster has issued an apology after posting an offensive social media comment about the LGBTQI+ Rainbow Pride flag.
Webster on Sunday night responded to an X post that featured the rainbow flag with the question: “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this flag?”
In a comment that was uploaded on Sunday night then deleted, Webster wrote back: “Mental illness.”
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Despite deleting the post, a screenshot of Webster’s comment quickly circulated online, drawing community outrage. He later posted ‘PROTECT THE CHILDREN’ before locking his X account.
It comes just days before the Wildcats’ pre-season NBL Blitz clash against the Adelaide 36ers and Isaac Humphries, who last year became the only openly gay male playing in a top tier basketball league.
The Wildcats launched an investigation on Monday before releasing a statement, with Webster conceding his comments were insensitive.
“While it certainly wasn’t my intent, I understand the hurt my comments have caused and I am sincerely sorry for this,” Webster said in a Wildcats statement.
“It wasn’t how I intended my comments to be perceived and I will take a break from social media and use that time to better educate myself on the impact comments such as this can make on individuals I may have offended.”
Richard Simkiss — the chief executive of SEN Teams, who own the Wildcats — said Webster’s comments didn’t reflect the club’s values
“We are really disappointed in these comments and have made this clear to Corey,” Simkiss said.
“They don’t reflect our values, and we have committed to working with Corey to help educate him about the harm such comments can bring.
“As a community driven club, we stand for inclusiveness and have strongly supported the NBL’s Pride Round. We look forward to promoting this initiative again in the upcoming season.
“Our values are clear – we want to bring people together in a positive way and we understand our responsibility as leaders in the community to live these values both on and off the court.”
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The NBL last season the celebrated its inaugural Champion Pride Round — and will do so again this season.
NBL chief executive David Stevenson labelled the comments “insensitive and harmful”
“The league is disappointed with his comments,” Stevenson said.
“We want the NBL to be a safe and inclusive environment at all times and encourage the greater inclusion and wellbeing of LGBTQ players, members and fans.”
“The community is critical in supporting inclusion and diversity in our society and we all must work together to encourage everyone to be themselves.
“There will always be challenges when stances and beliefs conflict with one another, but as an organisation we are committed to working together and supporting one another, with respect at all times.”
Webster on Sunday came off the bench in the Wildcats’ 102-95 win over Cairns at Gold Coast Convention Centre, scoring 12 points from just over 23 minutes of court time.
One of New Zealand’s best ever basketballers, Webster scored 2664 points from 236 games with the Breakers and was part of three championships before joining the Wildcats in June last year.
The 34-year-old played six games in the NBA Summer League for the Dallas Mavericks in 2018 and has represented New Zealand on the international stage, while he’s also played professionally in Egypt, Serbia, Italy, Greece, Israel and China.