SBD/March 28, 2013/Sports in Society

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  • Ravens' Ayanbadejo Says Athletes Are Becoming More Accepting Of LGBT Community

    Ayanbadejo says he wants acceptance, not tolerance, of gay athletes

    The sports world has been "plagued by homophobic slurs and close-mindedness in locker rooms, and that still exists today," but many advocates of gay rights have "emerged in several years, none more prominent" than Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo, according to Jordan Zakarin of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Ayanbadejo has "worked to promote gay rights since 2009, and has worked with GLAAD ever since." He also appeared at the Supreme Court to "show his solidarity with the LGBT movement." Asked if he sensed players becoming more tolerant, Ayanbadejo said, "Tolerance is not the word; we’re looking for acceptance. You tolerate someone smoking. I know it’s a little bit semantics, but we’re trying to get past that. So I see guys that are really starting to be accepting and learning, so even when guys making bone-headed comments, like Kobe made a couple of years ago, and then you see Kobe sending tweets like he did a few weeks ago accepting the LGBT community, guys are really coming around." Ayanbadejo said of how many active players he estimates are gay but keeping it a secret, "There’s no reason to think it’d be any different than the general population, so that’s all we can assume. We can’t assume any more or any less, so that would mean there’s a handful of gay people in every professional league." Asked if the locker room would be accepting of someone who came out, Ayanbadejo said, "I think they’d be accepted. It’s something that myself, [Vikings P] Chris Kluwe, [Browns LB] Scott Fujita, we’re all trying to prepare ourselves for, so that person has a foundation and has support when they are ready and they feel society feels ready for them" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/27).

    ISSUES ABOUT COMING OUT: ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said a gay player coming out while he is an active player on a team sport is “as much about the culture we live in as it is a sports story.” Wilbon noted a CBSSports.com article states a player who may announce he is gay “is said to feel his biggest issue is going to come not from teammates or opponents, but fans.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “You have to be more concerned with the locker room, because that’s where you live and that’s where you work.” Kornheiser said if this is a “veteran player and this is the team he’s been on for a while, they already know” and his teammates “are going to accept him.” Kornheiser: “This story may be the trial balloon in which you wait and see what is the reaction to this story. I think we’re going to see this a lot sooner than I would have thought two years ago.” Wilbon said there will be “huge public support from sponsors and the league and media members for this player.” But Wilbon added that football locker rooms “are the least tolerant” and the “resistance is going to come from the locker room more so than the public” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/26). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said, “We can’t know what the reaction is (of a player coming out) until we know whether it’s a star or not. If it’s an anonymous defensive lineman, I don’t know what we’re going to do with this story in a sport where a bunch of guys wear masks.” SB Nation’s Bomani Jones said, “It is definitely going to be a bigger concern with fans than in the locker room” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 3/26). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “Times have changed enough the player is going to be much more accepted than he would have been 15 years ago” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/26).

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