Controversy for the coming generation
May 12th, 2014
Among the piles of press that surrounded the selection of Michael Sam during this past weekend’s NFL draft selection, I found this little gem regarding the decision of ESPN to air Sam’s reaction and his kiss with his boyfriend. (Sun Times)
When [ESPN Producer Seth] Markman’s wife explained to their 7-year-old son that dad was busy working on something that was controversial, Sam’s kiss on TV, the boy replied: “Is it because they’re not married?”
Welcome Out Michael Sam, University of Missouri Defensive Lineman
February 9th, 2014
Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman for the University of Missouri Tigers, has come out as gay in interviews with ESPN and The New York Times. According to statements made to both outlets, Sam came out to his team mates and coaches last August:
“Coaches just wanted to know a little about ourselves, our majors, where we’re from, and something that no one knows about you,” Sam said. “And I used that opportunity just to tell them that I was gay. And their reaction was like, ‘Michael Sam finally told us.’ ”
Asked what that moment felt like, Sam said, “I was kind of scared, even though they already knew. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from Day One. I couldn’t have better teammates. … I’m telling you what: I wouldn’t have the strength to do this today if I didn’t know how much support they’d given me this past semester.”
Sam was named the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, and he was unanimously selected to the first-team All-American. He is already the first Division I college football player in history to come put as gay. If he is picked up on the NFL draft in May, then Sam could become the first openly gay player in NFL history.
Brendon Ayanbadejo comes to Kluwe’s defense
January 3rd, 2014
Chris Kluwe claims he was fired for his marriage support
January 3rd, 2014
In 2012, Minnesota was in the midst of a battle over whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. One of the more visible (and definitely most colorful) allies for equality was Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Eventually the voters of Minnesota rejected the amendment and the legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. But things did not go as well for Kluwe, who was fired from the team.
At the time, Kluwe gave a non-committal response as to the reason why he was let go at the height of his career. But now – having accepted that it is unlikely that he will play again for the NFL – Kluwe is claiming that he was probably fired for his pro-gay activism.
Writing for Buzzfeed, the former player gives praise to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who thanked him for his advocacy, but blames his firing on “a bigot and two cowards”. He chastises Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier (himself fired this week) and General Manager Rick Spielman for lacking the backbone to stand up for decency, but the real blame he saves for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer.
The most incendiary claim is this:
Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”
The Vikings issued a statement that Kluwe was “released strictly based on his football performance”. I can’t judge that position, but the response from those who follow the sport closely seems mixed in their response.
But the management also stated that they take his allegations “very seriously and will thoroughly review this matter”. And, indeed, they should. For while many football fans may not be supporters of marriage equality, few would be comfortable with the raw hatred that was reflected in Priefer’s alleged outburst.
Priefer has denied the incident, using the “I have gay family members” defense.
I vehemently deny today’s allegations made by Chris Kluwe.
I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member.
The primary reason I entered coaching was to affect people in a positive way. As a coach, I have always created an accepting environment for my players, including Chris, and have looked to support them both on and off the field.
The comments today have not only attacked my character and insulted my professionalism, but they have also impacted my family. While my career focus is to be a great professional football coach, my number one priority has always been to be a protective husband and father to my wife and children.
I will continue to work hard for the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and all of our loyal fans.
This variation of the “some of my best friends” defense has all the believability of Sarah Palin’s similar claim. While I have no idea as to the facts of the matter, this has several flaws that raise red flags.
People who really have gay friends whom they support say, “I love my gay friends!” Those who hold animus say “I love gay people just like I love all people!” Priefer loves his gay family members just like he does “any family member”.
And I’m not sure why the appeal to ‘look at me, I’m a hetero with a wife and kids’ was thrown in there. But one possible reason for the inclusion of “protective” is a warning to the media that he will go on attack if they look too closely at his family. Before his son, Mike Priefer, Jr., made his Twitter account private, one blogger found that he had sent dozens of tweets which reflect a hostile attitude towards gay people.
A few Vikings players (mostly newer players including Kluwe’s replacement) have rallied around Priefer, who is hoping to replace Frazier as Head Coach. But so far (as best I can find), no one who was on the team at the time has categorically denied that Priefer said the things that Kluwe asserts.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But the Vikings ownership and management will have to tread carefully.
At the moment, Priefer’s statement doesn’t pass the smell test. Kluwe is too detailed in his dates and places and comes across as credible while Priefer’s bigoted comments, should they be confirmed, are beyond social acceptance in Minnesota. Should the Vikings promote Priefer, they will invite controversy and a negative association with the team in an industry which relies heavily on community goodwill.
Congratulations, Orlando Cruz
November 18th, 2013
Gay Puerto Rican boxer Orlando “El Fenómeno” Cruz on Nov. 16 married his boyfriend, José Manuel Colón, in New York’s Central Park.
Anti-gay sports commentator can’t find a job
September 7th, 2013
In February 2012, Craig James was running for the Republican nomination for US Senator from Texas. He figured that as an ESPN Sports Commentator, he had face and name recognition, but the pols (and polls) were against him. So at that time it seemed the smart and bold choice to be as anti-gay as possible, even giving (eventual) Sen. Ted Cruz competition.
During a debate, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert (also running) was trying to explain that even though he had participated in Dallas Gay Pride, he was not in favor of gay marriage (he just believed in representing everyone in the city) when James saw his opportunity to get some press. (keranews)
Former television sports analyst Craig James then weighed in.
James: I think right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades. I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders – our kids out there people need to see examples.
Moderator: Do you think people choose to be gay?
James: I think it’s a choice, I do.
Moderator: It’s not in the genes?
James: I think that you have to make that choice. But in that case right there, they are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions.
Later Texas Republicans went on to elect Ted Cruz, who has certainly missed no opportunity to advance his opposition to civil rights or equality for gay citizens. David Dewhurst, who came in second, remains as the state’s Lieutenant Governor and Tom Leppert, third, went to work as President of Kaplan, Inc. an education company.
But James, who finished fourth with 4% of the vote, has had trouble returning to his former career.
ESPN said that there wasn’t a place for him at their network after his anti-gay comments. And since then he has been “decompressing” and “been busy with business activities”.
But last Friday it looked like he had a break, a chance to get back on television. It looked like FOX Sports Southwest, targeting good ol’ Texas boys, wasn’t so concerned about his anti-gay statements. (Houston Chronicle)
When FSSW general manager Jon Heidtke, an A&M former student, heard of James’ interest, he approached him about joining that network.
“Jon said he heard I was interested in getting back in, and this came together overnight,” James said. “I think it was the Lord putting us together. I went to the studio (Thursday) for rehearsal, and when I drove past the airport I had a big smile on my face.”
James will work with Erin Hartigan and former Texans quarterback Tony Banks. “Big 12 Live,” which airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays, is hosted by Ric Renner with Gary Reasons.
But it turns out that neither the Lord nor Heidtke had cleared the decision with FOX Sports upper management. And, after only one Saturday, James is out again.
And though James’ shaky reputation among college sports fans may have made it an easier decision, FOX is saying that he was booted because of his phoby antics. (Dallas Morning News)
During the campaign James took a strong anti-gay stance.
“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” said a Fox spokesman. “He couldn’t say those things here.”
No doubt the usual rabble will claim that James is being persecuted and blacklisted because of his stance for traditional marriage. And James will no doubt have a new gig as keynote speaker for the type of dinners that specialize in professional martyrs, where he can rant his bile to appreciative elderly ladies and Peter LaBarbera.
But it won’t be televised. Not even on FOX.
Rest in peace, Emile Griffith
July 24th, 2013
Former world champion boxer Emile Griffith died today, aged 75. Griffith was a powerhouse in the ring from 1961 until his retirement in 1977, with more championship bouts than anyone else in boxing history and his record standing at 85-24-2 with 23 knockouts.
But he is probably best known for a fight on March 24, 1962 against Benny “The Kid” Paret. Paret had taunted him in the locker-room with a homophobic slur; Griffith went into the ring at Madison Square Garden before a live television audience and fought mercilessly. Peret was knocked out, went into a coma, and died 10 days later.
Griffith was hated both by the public and tortured by himself after that event. He always insisted that he never intended to kill Peret, but he also acknowledged that he was angry and the fight was personal. His boxing style changed after that bout and he fought more for points and technical wins rather than knockouts. He never quite got over the fight, and the boxing world didn’t either.
Lesser known was Griffith’s struggle coming to terms with his sexuality. While he never admitted to being bisexual or gay during his career – who would in 1962? – he did live in such a way that left few doubts. (ESPN)
“He was a tremendous boxer and person,” Ross said. “It is almost a blessing that he passed away because he has been in a vegetative state the last couple years. To know him was a privilege. He transcended being a boxer, or being gay or straight. He lived life with the fullest joy. He passed that on to everyone he knew, and not many have that as a legacy.
“Emile never felt like he was different; he lived his life openly. He’d go to a gay bar and he wouldn’t go into a side entrance; he’d go in the front door. He never flaunted it, but it was natural to him to lead his life the way he wanted to.”
And in 1992 this came to tragedy. The real story is lost to Griffith’s increasing pugilistic dementia, but any version is horrific (Sports Illustrated):
It’s a summer evening. Emile gets off an airplane at JFK. He should be exhausted. He should go straight to his mother’s house in Queens Village, where he’s moved back into the finished basement along with Luis. He has just flown back from Australia, where the boxer he trains, junior welterweight Juan LaPorte, has lost to Kostya Tszyu. Emile takes a cab to Manhattan.
He ends up in Hombre, a gay bar on West 41st Street hard by the Port Authority. He can relax more in gay bars than in straight ones, he tells people, because the people there are far less likely to challenge him to a fight. But suddenly he feels so woozy that he wonders if someone put something in his drink. He steps outside. Here comes the smoke.
A gang of men jumps him, beats him with pipes, robs him and leaves him for dead on the street. Later he staggers onto the wrong train, but finally, after hours have passed, he stumbles home. That’s what Emile tells LaPorte, who comes to the Griffith home at the request of Emile’s frightened mother and takes him to the hospital.
The men catch him stepping into a cab, slam the door on his body over and over again until he drops. That’s what Keith Stechman, a friend, says Emile told him.
Two guys start a fight in the bar. He follows them outside to break it up and two more join them, all turning on him, trying to take his money and beating him with baseball bats. That’s what Butch Miller, Jack Miller’s son, says Emile told the Miller family.
They kick him with heavy boots, kick every part of his body as if he were a dog. That’s what Luis Rodrigo, the first to find him when he staggers home, says Emile told him.
He nearly dies in the hospital. His battered kidneys fail, he goes on dialysis, then his spine gets infected. The severity and site of the beating suggests a gay bashing, a hate crime, but no one will ever know. By the time Emile comes home, two months later, he remembers almost nothing of it. It vanishes in smoke.
In 2005, Ring of Fire: the Emile Griffith Story explored his sexuality and his sport and how the two had melded to impact his life. Even in that year he couldn’t self identify as gay, though he viewed himself as having a place in our community (NYTimes)
I asked Mr. Griffith if he was gay, and he told me no. But he looked as if he wanted to say more. He told me he had struggled his entire life with his sexuality, and agonized over what he could say about it. He said he knew it was impossible in the early 1960’s for an athlete in an ultramacho sport like boxing to say, “Oh, yeah, I’m gay.”
But after all these years, he wanted to tell the truth. He’d had relations, he said, with men and women. He no longer wanted to hide. He hoped to ride this year in New York’s Gay Pride Parade.
He did ride in 2007.
By all accounts, Griffith was a kind and generous man in a difficult world and time. May his rest be peaceful.
Sports history made
May 27th, 2013
Yesterday a milestone was passed. Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay man to participate in a prominent North American pro league, stepped onto the field at the Home Depot Center south of downtown Los Angeles as a substitute for the LA Galaxy. The audience roared.
While soccer is a relative new-comer to American professional sports, an influx of immigrants from countries where the sport reigns supreme along with generations of AYSO youth have raised its profile. And the uptick in interest in Los Angeles generated when David Beckman joined the team seems not to have dissipated. (LATimes)
Midfielder Robbie Rogers entered the game to a rousing ovation in the 77th minute, becoming the first openly gay male athlete to play in an American professional team sport. The Galaxy signed Rogers to a multiyear contract Saturday after acquiring the rights for him in a trade with the Chicago Fire, and the 26-year-old Huntington Beach native had five touches, one tackle and three completed passes in the final 13 minutes.
The Galaxy beat the Seattle Sounders 4 to 0.
Quote of the night
April 30th, 2013
Charles Barkley on Jason Collins coming out: “Anyone who thinks they never played with a gay player is an idiot.”
Yeah, that pretty much puts it in perspective.
Welcome out, Jason Collins
April 29th, 2013
Major sports has just had its first openly gay and still playing professional come out, Jason Collins. From Sports Illustrated’s May 6 edition.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.
I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.
I am certain that some sports fans and viewers will try and make life tough for Collins, but he seems confident, skilled, intelligent and articulate. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a supportive family, excellent political connections, and is beautiful. I wish that this step is nothing but rewarding and enriching in his life.
Welcome out, Orlando Cruz
October 4th, 2012
Boxer Orlando Cruz has announced that he’s gay: (espn)
“I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself,” Cruz said in a statement after taping a spot on a Telemundo show, which will air Monday. “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”
Five reasons why this is great:
1. Cruz is still competing in his sport. He has a fight on the 19th.
2. Cruz is no minor player. He was a 2000 Olympian (for Puerto Rico) and is currently WBO Latino featherweight champion.
3. Cruz’ official announcement will be Monday on Telemundo.
4. Cruz is doing this on his own accord and (as best I can tell) not as the result of some scandal.
5. If you have a problem with his orientation, that’s too bad. Cruz is tougher than you and can kick your ass.
Red Sox Releases “It Gets Better” Video
July 1st, 2011
Chicago Cubs: It Gets Better
June 20th, 2011
It’s worth noting that Cubs’ co-owner Laura Ricketts is an out Lesbian. Your Chicago Cubs are now the second major league baseball team (and, I believe, the second major league sports team overall) to produce a video. San Francisco Giants released theirs three weeks ago. Boston Red Sox have also announced that they will release a video soon.
Red Sox To Produce “It Gets Better” Video
June 4th, 2011
The Boston Red Sox have announced that they will become the third Major League Baseball team to produce a video for the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign:
We are proud of dedicated Red Sox fans like 12-year-old Sam Maden who have taken the courageous step of publicly standing up against bullying of LGBT youth,” said Susan Goodenow, Senior Vice President/Public Affairs and Marketing for the Red Sox, in a statement. “The Red Sox have frequently done PSA videos, or public service announcement videos, on important social issues. We are currently producing an “It Gets Better” video to support the It Gets Better campaign to stop bullying of LGBT youth and teen suicides. We hope that when it is released it will both reflect our continued commitment to be active participants in the community and help advance the efforts of Sam and others to stop bullying. Our team stands for respect and inclusion – there is no place for discrimination or acts of hatred in Red Sox Nation.”
The announcement came after 12-year-old Sam Maden started an online petition asking the ball club to produce a video. Maden began the campaign after his seventh-grade teacher asked him to come up with a project that could “make a difference” in the world. More than 9,000 fans signed the petition.
This announcement not only demonstrates the power of one person to make a difference, but it also shows that the BoSox can still beat the Yankees.
Chicago Cubs To Produce “It Gets Better” Video
June 3rd, 2011
The Chicago Cubs will produce an “It Gets Better” video, which takes a stand against anti-gay bullying and homophobia. The project has been in the works for more than a week and is set to be filmed after the team returns to Wrigley Field from its current 10-game road trip.
…”The Cubs applaud the Giants for their stand against anti-LGBT bullying. Bullying of anyone for any reason is unacceptable,” said Laura Ricketts, Cubs owner and board member. “We are proud to join the Giants in taking a stand against bullying and encourage other professional sports organizations to do the same.”
Wrigly Field is located just a few blocks away from Chicago’s Boys Town neighborhood, and has been a financial supporter of many LGBT organizations and charities in the Chicago area. In 2010, Laura Ricketts, an openly gay member of the Ricketts family who owns the Cubs, and retired shortstop and first baseman Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks rode on the team’s float in Chicago’s Pride Parade. The Cubs will host “OUT at Wrigly” on July 17 when the Cubs take on the Florida Marlins. Maybe the Marlins can have a video out by then.
Earlier this week, the San Francisco Giants released their video for “It Gets Better,” the anti-bullying campaign begun by Dan Savage and Terry Miller. A Boston Red Sox fan, twelve-year-old Sam Maden, has launched a campaign to get his favorite team to make a video as well.