Monday, January 28, 2013

Gays in Sports

Every so often we’re faced with a moment, as fans, that force us to look within ourselves and question what we really believe.  Sports are normally very cut and dry.  We cheer for who we like and cheer against who we don’t.  We throw our support behind players based on what they do on the court or field without ever having to truly acknowledge their humanity.  Let’s admit it; we don’t know the people we cheer for.  We love them for their athletic skills, but rarely have to decide if they are the type of person we really can support out of their respective sport.  As we continue in this technological age, with access to players at an all-time high, we’re going to begin facing more questions about which players we decide to support.

Kenneth Faried and his Moms
While those of you who know me know I rarely discuss anything political, I wanted to take a moment to praise two prominent figures in sports that have recently spoke up in support of gay marriage.  Last week Denver Nuggets star Kenneth Faried released a video in support of civil unions while sitting alongside his two mothers.  Additionally, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayenbadejo has made it known that he will use the massive platform provided to him at the Super Bowl to promote gay marriage as well.  In a day and age where athletes have a tremendous platform, yet seldom use it to further worthy causes, it’s awesome to see these two individuals take a step forward and work towards something such as this.
Brendan Ayenbadejo
Regardless of what you believe, it takes an extremely brave person to stand up for gay rights, especially in the macho world of professional sports.  They open themselves up to public ridicule and verbal attacks from “fans” in opposing stadiums and on the faceless world of Twitter.  I shudder to think about the things that will be uttered by the ignorant people of the world, who feel safe behind their keyboards.

I, for one, almost feel validated to be a fan of Faried.  I know virtually nothing about him off the court, except that he’s tweeted me a couple of times (which I hilariously mention whenever I can because, even as a 35 year old, it’s kind of cool).  I love the way he plays the game, and it helps a little bit that he plays for my Nuggets.  Now that I know he’s a man of substance and character, it makes it even prouder to wear his jersey and cheer for him when I watch.  My son Marshall loves watching “Manimal” and I couldn’t be happier he’s chosen him as one of his “basketball guys”.

I believe that, as a society, we’re ready to embrace an openly gay athlete.  The thing is, for it to truly make a difference (in a positive way), I sincerely believe that we’ll need a male megastar in one of the major sports to come out as gay before viewpoints start to change.  I’m not sexist in any way at all, but if a woman comes out, there’s still a prevalent and immature male mentality that will take over.  “Two chicks together is cool,” is something I’ve regularly heard when this topic comes up.  It’s such an ignorant viewpoint, in my eyes.  Personally, I could not care less who you love and marry.  I support anyone who wants to marry someone they care about, male or female.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will be breaking ground at the end of February when the first woman’s fight takes place in the history of the company.  In addition to that the number contender that night, Liz Carmouche, is openly gay.  I’m hoping that her sexuality is ignored going forward once the fight is over.  I’m hoping that we won’t look at her as a “gay fighter”, but simply as a fighter.  That will be the most important step.

Whenever the first prominent male athlete in a major sport comes out, I believe the course will change and for the better.  There will always be the prejudicial and judgmental people out in the word, unfortunately, but the numbers may just dwindle down a bit.  Could you imagine if someone like LeBron James or Tom Brady were actually gay?  Obviously they are not, but what if?  Would that make their fans that support them so loyally, abandon and condemn them?  It wouldn’t make them any less dominant in their sport.  They’d still be among the best in the world at what they do.  It would put some people in a position of really looking within themselves.  They would have to address their prejudices and decide what kind of person they really are.  By forcing people to do that, I think it makes people become better individuals because they have to fix things they see that are wrong.

I am a firm believer that sports are a microcosm of society.  I think we’re taking steps in the right direction with this.  If professional athletes, who operate in their own little world, can accept people and their differences, we should be able to as a regular society.  Once equality for all really starts happening, our society is going to be in a much better position.

Kudos to Kenneth Faried and Brendan Ayenbadejo for providing important voices that are more likely to be heard than the ones of everyday people.  It’s a step in the right direction, not just for the gay community, but for society as a whole.

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