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National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame Announces New Inductees

HallofFameSideProof3It's been almost a year since the first-ever inductees of the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame were honored in Chicago. Included were big-name athletes such as Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis, Jason Collins, and Johnny Weir.

This year, on July 11, a new crop of athletes and organizations will be honored in The Windy City. Among them will be: baseball player William ‘Billy’ Bean of the San Diego Padres, British diver Tom Daley, and rugby player Mark Bingham — who is known both as the namesake of the Bingham Cup and for his tragic death on United 93 in the 9/11 attacks.

Football fans will note the absence of NFL newbie Michael Sam. While Sam is still green in his career, it's worth noting that the list includes three former NFL players who came out as gay after their time in the league ended: Esera Tuaolo, Wade Davis, and Jerry Smith (deceased 1986, a casualty of the AIDS epidemic).

While some of the most visible inductees are LGBT athletes, organizations (e.g. Nike) and sports businesspeople are also included. As are straight allies — deceased San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (portrayed by Victor Garber in Milk) is also included in the list. The complete "roster" of inductees, via GNN:


John Amaechi, retired NBA player;
 Mark Bingham, rugby player (deceased); Tom Daley, Olympic medal winning diver
; Wade Davis, executive director of You Can Play and retired NFL player
; Fallon Fox, mixed martial artist
; Brittney Griner, decorated collegiate athlete, active WNBA player
; Mayor George Moscone, straight ally, former Mayor of San Francisco (deceased)
; Chris Mosier, founder of transathlete.com
; Nike, corporation
; Diana Nyad, endurance swimmer
; Jerry Smith, NFL player (deceased)
; Stand Up Foundation, anti-bullying non-profit organization
; Gareth Thomas, retired rugby player
; Esera Tuaolo, retired NFL player.


Out Former Football Player Wade Davis Opens Up About Being Gay In The NFL: VIDEO

Wade2

With Michael Sam becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, former NFL player Wade Davis, who publicly came out in 2012, almost a decade after he retired from the sport, is sharing what it was like being a closeted gay black man in the NFL in the early 2000s. In an interview with Al Jazeera America Davis tells how football provided a mask that helped him hide his sexual orientation: “No one ever questioned me as being a gay male because I played football.” Davis went on to say that, for him, coming out while he was still an active player was never an option:

It was something that I really never even thought about. I thought that it was not possible for someone to be a gay male and play the sport of football…It was something that I kind of was domesticated to believe from the age of 7 on up, that football and being gay just didn’t mix.

Wade3Davis, the Executive Director of the 'You Can Play Project', a group working to support LGBT rights and fight homophobia in sports, recently spoke with league coaches and general managers in the NFL about homophobia and how to tackle problems that could arise from having a gay player in the locker room. For his part, Davis explains that the locker room and in particular the showers never provided him with any difficulties:

Well, first of all, most guys look terrible naked, right? [Laughs.] Secondly, those are my brothers. I tell people often, if you put a man in a locker room with women, there’s a chance that he may be excited or aroused. But if those women are his sisters, there is no attraction there.

And so my teammates were my brothers. So, whether they were naked or not didn’t really matter to me.

Davis also delved into why being an openly gay football player might be different than being an out individual in other sports:


I think that football is like this sport that we deem as these gladiator superhuman men, right? I think that the way that we view men and masculinity really plays a role in that. So this idea that someone who can be gay and play this hypermasculine sport, people often think that those two things can’t coexist. I think that there is shortsightedness in the way that we look at men and also in the way that we look at sports. I do a lot of work with the NFL, and I do say that football is about toughness and masculinity and combat. But there are also even higher levels of family, of solidarity, of compassion that people don’t talk about when they think about sports. If you watch a game on Sunday now, as soon as the player gets hurt, you’ll see players from both teams come around and start saying a prayer. After a game, win or lose, there are guys who shake hands, they hug. These are gentlemen who exist in a very violent sport, but the love and the passion that they have for the sport and for each other is actually greater than those other aspects of it. 

Perhaps most poignantly, Davis offers some advice to young LGBT athletes: “Don’t let the love of your sport overshadow the need to love yourself.”

You can watch Parts 1 and 2 of Davis’ interview with Al Jazeera America, AFTER THE JUMP…

Continue reading "Out Former Football Player Wade Davis Opens Up About Being Gay In The NFL: VIDEO" »


Gay Former NFL Player Wade Davis Speaks to Coaches, General Managers on Homophobia, Locker Rooms

Gay former NFL player Wade Davis offered a "powerful presentation" to league coaches and general managers on Monday dealing with homophobia, sexual orientation, and gays in the locker room, Outsports reports:

DavisFrom all reports his presentation was incredibly well-received, with "many" coaches and GMs approaching Davis with praise after the meeting. Various folks from Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to San Diego Chargers head coach Mike Mccoy thanked him for a unique, powerful presentation that opened eyes.

Davis's intent was to debunk stereotypes:

"I told them they have to be intentional from day one," Davis said of the NFL teams' next steps. "They can't just talk about 'diversity,' they have to talk about addressing 'diversity and that specifically includes sexual orientation."

Davis said one of the key elements of his talk was humor. He created a running joke through his presentation about current St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher cutting him. Twice. The room ate it up. Davis wanted to lighten the mood to demonstrate no one has to tip-toe around the issues on their teams: Gay players have senses of humor too.

"Wade nailed it," Fisher said after the meeting. He was glowing in his praise of Davis' talked, saying he'll consider bringing him to talk to his team later this year.

NFL owners are set to hear from Davis on Tuesday morning.


NFL Players Reach Out to LGBT Youth in 'High Five Initiative'

The 'You Can Play Project' has announced the 'High Five Initiative', a collaboration that will see, in its first project, NFL players interacting one-one-one with LGBT youth, the group announced:

VincentThe initiative will have a soft launch with former NFL players and NFL player engagement executives Troy Vincent (pictured) and Dwight Hollier visiting New York City's Hetrick Martin Institute (HMI), one of the nation's oldest and largest LGBT organizations. The HMI provides lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) youth social support and programming ranging from arts and culture to academic enrichment to job readiness.

After today, both organizations will continue to work together to expand the initiative during the 2014 NFL season and have current and former players visit other organizations nationwide.

The project is the first initiative from the group's executive director, former NFL player Wade Davis.

Said Davis: “We believe that the power of story telling is a transformative experience that helps to broaden and foster our understanding of one another. We hope through these one-on-one interactions youth will see they are welcomed in sports."

Added the group:

The name “High Five” for the initiative is important as well, because Glenn Burke, former MLB player and gay male, is credited with inventing the “High Five” and further cementing the connection between LGBT individuals and sports.

“Our goal at You Can Play beyond creating safe spaces for LGBT individuals, is to change the singular narrative that exist about sports. If youth only hear that sports is about toughness, masculinity and violence, some may choose not to play. But when youth learn the true essence of sports is family, solidarity and compassion for all participants, then we will see more youth, especially LGBT youth, understand sports is a place for them,” said Davis.


Should Straight Allies Back Away from the Spotlight in the LGBT Sports Movement?

Chris Kluwe

In the year and a half since its launch, the You Can Play Project has been working hard at supporting LGBT rights and fighting homophobia in sports by featuring a growing list of vocal athlete allies from across the sporting world. In a new article over at Outsports, however, founder Patrick Burke expressed his discomfort with the reality that the LGBT sports movement isn't actually an LGBT sports movement.

Said Burke:

Patrick BurkeI can't shake the feeling that we've gone too far. Allies have raised our profiles beyond what is necessary to help the LGBT community. It's been a big year for allies to get famous, grab a book deal, win awards, maybe pocket some speaker's fees for appearances. Resources that should be going to empower LGBT voices are instead going to enhance the visibility of straight people. We've created professional allies (or, as the history major in me would call them, mercenaries). We've created famous allies. Think of how absurd that concept is. I have a public presence because I treat gay people with respect.

Part of it is the fault of the allies. Part of it has been the unwillingness of the LGBT athletic community to stand up publicly and say, "Thank you for everything, but we'be got this now." A major part of it is that the leagues, media, and major financial donors are still more comfortable working with straight white men. This is often true even when dealing with members of the LGBT community, who donate to or otherwise empower straight voices over LGBT athletes.

Burke says that while the contributions from straight allies have been (and continue to be) invaluable, he would like to see more LGBT people become the "faces" of the movement. He points to last month's naming of Wade Davis Executive Director of You Can Play as progress in the push to better connect with LGBT athletes and athletes of color.

Check out Burke's thought-provoking article in full over at Outsports.  


Gay Former NFL Player Wade Davis Named Executive Director of 'You Can Play' Project

Gay former NFL player Wade Davis has been named Executive Director of the 'You Can Play Project', a group working to support LGBT rights and fight homophobia in sports, the organization announced today:

DavisDavis is a former NFL player who is one of a small number of openly gay men to have played professional sports. Davis played college football at Weber State before spending four years with NFL practice squads and in NFL Europe. In addition to his collegiate and professional sports background, Davis has spent the last two and a half years working with inner-city LGBTQ youth at the prestigious Hetrik-Martin Institute in New York City. This year, Davis co-founded the You Belong Initiative, which partnered with the NBA, You Can Play, and other LGBT Sports groups to provide the world’s first LGBTQ sports camp to inner city youth. A member of this year’s HBO “Out List”, Davis has written for the New York Times, Huffington Post, Outsports.com, and other major media outlets. Davis appears on the boards of the GLSEN Sports Project and Go! Athletes.

Said You Can Play co-founders Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman in a joint statement: “Wade is an absolute home run addition for You Can Play. With a background in both professional sports and in working directly with LGBT youth, he has what can only be described as utterly unique expertise. He has worked with numerous non-profits before, and as the founder of the You Belong Initiative he has experience in fundraising, development, and administration. He brings the ability to connect with pro athletes, with kids, and with media. He is an athlete, an academic, a teacher, a coach, a businessman, and a leader.”

Added Davis: “I am honored to have the opportunity to join such a ground-breaking organization in You Can Play. In a short period of time, their work has made significant strides in changing the culture of the sports world. I am hopeful that my background as an athlete and an LGBT youth advocate will allow me to take You Can Play to the next level.”

Davis began talking about his sexuality publicly in June 2012.


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