The Year in Sports
(Clockwise from top left; Chris Kluwe, San Francisco Giants, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Corey Johnson)
This was a significant year for gays in the sports community. Professional athletes both gay and straight stood up for marriage equality and against homophobia, and some helped knock down stereotypes by proudly coming out of the closet while still participating in the sport they love. Presented in no particular order of significance.
1. Giants Get Better
The San Francisco Giants baseball club proudly claimed their seventh World Series title this past October, but the team made history for a different reason. Last year, the Giants became the first professional sports team to participate in Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign, giving queer youth a hopeful video message against bullying. It got the ball rolling for over a dozen other professional teams around North America to do the same.
2. Taylor’s Straight Ally
Hudson Taylor continued his second year of running Athlete Ally, the organization he founded to advocate respect for all individuals involved in sports. Hudson’s father taught him a valuable lesson: “Athletes become worthy of the greatest respect not when they win at their sport but when they stand up for the dignity of others and represent something bigger than themselves.”
3. No Homophobia In the Lockeroom
Patrick Burke co-founded and launched the You Can Play project in March and spent most of 2012 zipping around the country to speak out against homophobia in professional sports. His work to eradicate homophobia in the locker room and the field recently won the 2012 GLAAD Amplifier Award in the Public Relations category.
4. Ayanbadejo Supports Gay Marriage
Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker on the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, voiced his support for marriage equality when the issue was being put to a ballot initiative in Maryland earlier this year.
5. Kluwe Clalls Out Emmett Burns
Chris Kluwe, a punter with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, challenged Maryland lawmaker Emmett Burns—who was verbally critical of Ayanbadejo stance on marriage equality—by sending him an open letter that stated, “Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level.”
6. Orlando Cruz Comes Out
On October 19, pro boxer Orlando Cruz beat Jorge Pazos in the ring in Kissimmee, Fla. Two weeks earlier, Cruz issued a press release announcing he was a “proud gay man,” becoming the first out athlete in professional boxing. During a post-fight interview, Cruz told ESPN, “I was very happy that they respect me. That’s what I want—[for] them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word.”
7. Openly Gay Olympians
In July, just five days before the Opening Ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Grindr crashed. We don’t know how many of the 23 openly gay athletes scored, but 10 of them won medals, four of them gold.
8. Ben Cohen’s New Magazine
In November, former Rugby player Ben Cohen launched StandUp Magazine, a quarterly publication that hopes to showcase “the importance of positive role models, fairness, character and leadership across all levels of sports.” Ben is spreading his message not only through his new magazine, but also through The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, which works to end homophobia and bullying in sports.
9. Wade Davis Inspires Gay Teens
Former Tennessee Titans defensive back Wade Davis came out publicly this year and now spends his days as a staff member at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which serves gay youth in New York. He works as the Assistant Director of Job Readiness, preparing teens to go out into the workforce.
10. Corey Johnson Runs for City Council
Corey Johnson made national news back in 1999 when, as captain of his high school football team, came out of the closet. After co-founding the New York Gay Football League, Johnson became Board Chair of Manhattan’s Community Board 4. He now has his eye set on politics, announcing his aim to replace Christine Quinn on the New York City Council in the 2013 election.