With all of the recent LGBT news in the sports world, I decided to write this post to organize a timeline to show the progression. The sudden increase in news is especially surprising because the world of sports is an area that rarely ever sees LGBT-related news.
April 12, 2011 – Television footage shows proof that Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant directed a homophobic slur towards a referee during a game against the San Antonio Spurs. The next day, NBA commissioner David Stern slapped Bryant with a $100,000 fine and called Bryant’s actions “offensive and inexcusable”. Although Bryant apologized, he then made the controversial decision to appeal the fine.
April 23, 2011 – Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell makes “homophobic gestures and statements to two men in the stands and threatened another fan,” according to Braves.com. Major League Baseball suspended McDowell without pay for two weeks for his actions, fined him an undisclosed amount, and ordered him to attend sensitivity training. The Braves are no stranger to bigotry — when former Braves pitcher John Rocker was asked if he would ever play for the Mets, he said, “Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS.” A few years later, Braves pitcher John Smoltz made negative comments regarding marriage equality, saying, “What’s next? Marrying animals?”
May 5, 2011 – New York Rangers player Sean Avery becomes first professional athlete in New York to publicly support marriage equality when he was featured in a commercial for the Human Rights Campaign. The video can be viewed here. “I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated and that applies to marriage,” said Avery.
May 8, 2011 – The “It Gets Better” campaign extends to the NBA as a commercial for “It Gets Better” was aired during the playoffs. The “It Gets Better” campaign, started by Dan Savage, advocates against bullying against LGBT children and sends a message to kids that life will get better with time. This was started as a result of suicides by gay kids who felt alone and out of place in their environments. Great job by Savage with this.
May 10, 2011 – Sean Avery’s agent, Todd Reynolds, criticizes Avery’s comments on same-sex marriage. Reynolds made his comments on Twitter, saying “Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage. Legal or not, it will always be wrong.” After controversy followed, Reynolds finally decided to remove his hateful comments. He received a great deal of criticism, and rightfully so, considering his job is to represent Avery in a positive way instead of getting involved with irrelevant politics.
May 12, 2011 – Canadian sports anchor Damian Goddard gets fired for his comments made on Twitter regarding the same-sex marriage debate between Avery and Reynolds. “I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage,” said Goddard. This is not too surprising considering Canada’s higher acceptance of the LGBT community.
May 15, 2011 – Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts comes out as gay, becoming the first executive in American sports to come out. Welts consulted with Suns player Steve Nash, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and others before coming out publicly. Welts said one of his main reasons for coming was to pave the way for others to come out and to make other people who may be in his shoes feel more comfortable.
May 16, 2011 – By coincidence, a day after Welts comes out, Former Villanova men’s basketball player Will Sheridan comes out in an ESPN Outside the Lines episode and is featured on the front page of ESPN.com. Sheridan tells his story of how he was out to his teammates and close circle of friends and family during his playing career but nobody else. Sheridan’s father believed it was a choice and stripped him of financial support and demanded that he change back to straight again. Sheridan and his father later patched up their differences years and they currently get along.
May 16, 2011 – Former NBA star Charles Barkley says he supports full equality for gays and that includes marriage. “I think gay people should be allowed to get married and God bless them, that’s their own business,” he said. “Listen, if a guy can’t play that’s the only time we don’t want to play with him. We don’t care about all that extracurricular stuff.”