Professional sports are considered one of the rare professional fields where diversity seems to be embraced. Often athletes of different cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds team up for the goal of winning. One of the few social barriers that remained unbroken in professional sports was that of a openly gay male athlete in a team sport. Despite there obviously being male gay athletes in pro team sports for decades, none of them made the decision to come out as homosexual until after their retirement, if at all. Last year was an historic year for homosexuality in sports due to the courage of NBA player Jason Collins and Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers announcing their sexuality to the public. 2014 NFL Draft hopeful Michael Sam has gotten significant amount of attention after announcing himself as an "openly proud gay man" in a TV interview with ESPN last month.
Despite the progress in these athletes feeling that the current sports environment was welcoming enough to publicly come out as gay, there remains education that must be disseminated to the general public and specifically the sports culture, about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender athletes. There is perhaps no organization better equipped to do so than GLAAD, whose mission is to "the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively." GLAAD has recently announced an extremely important partnership for inclusion for LGBT athletes. The press release can be viewed below:
GLAAD AND YOU CAN PLAY PROJECT ANNOUNCE OFFICIAL PARTNERSHIP TO GROW LGBT ACCEPTANCE IN SPORTS
Organizations to lead conversations with all major American sports leagues
about LGBT equality in sports
New York, NY (March 19, 2014) - GLAAD, the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization, today announced an official partnership with the You Can Play Project, one of North America's leading organizations dedicated to ensuring equality, respect, and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.
"As LGBT athletes continue to break barriers in sports, it's now more important than ever that athletes, leagues, and sports fans see the value LGBT people bring to the team," said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. "There are few institutions that reach more people than sports, and changing the conversation about LGBT athletes and sports fans will have a tremendous impact on equality on and off the field."
Together the organizations will continue discussions on LGBT inclusion with every major American sports leagues and expand the work to include college level conferences and leagues. GLAAD and You Can Play will develop resources for sports leagues, teams, and sports media to ensure that LGBT athletes and fans are treated equally on and off the field. The groups will also host trainings for sports organizations that help sports officials tackle LGBT issues with the respect and urgency they require.
The two organizations also are working on a national PSA campaign highlighting the growing acceptance of LGBT people by professional athletes.
"The You Can Play Project understands the need for thoughtful innovative and collaborative partnerships," said Wade Davis, Executive Director of the You Can Play Project. "With GLAAD’s almost 30 years of experience educating the media, this partnership will help ensure that LGBT athletes and coaches will be represented in the media with great respect and dignity."
Recently, GLAAD and You Can Play worked together on media around NFL prospect Michael Sam following Sam's announcement that he is gay. GLAAD placed You Can Play Executive Director Wade Davis in more than 30 mainstream media outlets to talk about the importance of LGBT visibility in sports and the shift towards acceptance of LGBT people.