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Heterosexual People in Sports Need to Take Stand Against Gay Discrimination

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Sean Avery, a member of the NHL New York Rangers, told the Toronto Sun that he will support any young hockey player who wants to come out. He says that if any player anywhere (I am not sure he is including girl hockey players, but I hope he is) wants to come out and they need support, he will fly to their town and be with them as they come out to their teammates.

Avery says, "I'll stand beside him in the dressing room while he tells his teammates he is gay. Maybe if Sean Avery is there, they would have less of a problem with it."

I am excited about the increasing numbers of male professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL who are standing up publicly to support young gay people, marriage equality, anti-bullying laws as well as saying positive things about having gay teammates. It’s a far cry from Tim Hardaway’s anti-gay rant when John Amaechi came out.

At the risk of leaving someone out, Sean Avery joins professional athletes Scott Fujita (NFL), Steve Nash (NBA), Reggie Bush (NFL), Charles Barkley (NBA), Brendon Ayanbadejo (NFL), who have, in the last year, spoken out publicly against anti-gay discrimination or harassment. OK, there are still many athletes who are silent, but it wasn’t that long ago when public anti-gay comments were the norm and the absence of positive comments was total. Add to this list former NFL commissioner Paul Taglibue, Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke and his son Patrick and Ohio State Football Coach, Jim Tressel and the number of men in men’s sports speaking up gets longer. It gets longer still if you add Boston Red Sox Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia and Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, who have all spoken out in support of Boston sportswriter, Steve Buckley’s coming out.

So, as I have asked before in my blog: Where are the heterosexual women athletes and coaches who are willing to stand up publicly against anti-gay discrimination and harassment? People always assume that women’s sports are more accepting of lesbian athletes and coaches. If this is so, where are the straight women allies among the professional ranks or among collegiate sports?

Is homophobia in women’s sport what keeps straight women silent? It is true that women’s sports still have to contend with assumptions that many people make about an athlete’s sexuality because of her athleticism and the lesbian label is still used as a way to intimidate and discredit individual women and whole sports. But isn’t it time for heterosexual women in sport to step up and challenge homophobia like some of their male counterparts are? Is the homophobia in women’s sports what is silencing heterosexual women? And while we are talking about it, what about all the heterosexual men coaching women’s sports, when can we expect to hear some of them speaking up against homophobia in women’s sports? No one is accusing them of being lesbians.

I know there are many heterosexual coaches and athletes, male and female, who privately do not condone anti-gay discrimination and harassment in or out of sport. I’d like each of them to consider how much more powerful it would be for them to speak up publicly as increasing numbers of heterosexual men in men’s sports are. If we are to eliminate homophobia and heterosexism in sport, we need more heterosexual allies to speak up publicly, both women and men.

Consider this a challenge to heterosexual men and women in women’s sports to do so. Your voice makes a difference. Stand up. Speak up. Use your heterosexual status and credentials to make sports a better place for everyone. If you are afraid to do it alone, get together with a group of coaches or athletes in your sport or your school to make a statement. Do it. Do it now. It is the right thing to do and it makes all sports a better place for coaches and athletes of all sexual orientations.


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