Skip to main content

Pro sports, still homophobic in 2014

By Hudson Taylor
updated 9:27 AM EST, Sun January 5, 2014
Country singer Ty Herndon says he started revealing his sexuality to friends and family years ago, but he came out publicly this month in an interview <a href='http://www.people.com/article/ty-herndon-comes-out-gay' target='_blank'>with People magazine. </a>Here are some other celebrities who've navigated coming out in Hollywood: Country singer Ty Herndon says he started revealing his sexuality to friends and family years ago, but he came out publicly this month in an interview with People magazine. Here are some other celebrities who've navigated coming out in Hollywood:
HIDE CAPTION
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
Coming out in Hollywood
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hudson Taylor says we saw two examples that homophobia is still a problem in sports
  • Former NFL player believes he may have lost job because of his support for gay athletes
  • Green Bay Packers quarterback speaks out to say that he is not gay
  • Taylor: In 2014, despite much progress, homophobia still holds sway in professional sports

Editor's note: Hudson Taylor, a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland, is a wrestling coach at Columbia University and the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that educates, encourages and empowers the athletic community to help end homophobia, transphobia and bullying. It is partnered with All Out on the Principle 6 Campaign around the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

(CNN) -- First, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers addressed rumors that he was gay on his weekly ESPN radio show, saying, "I am not gay. I really, really like women."

Then former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe penned a nuclear account in which he said his former coach was such a complete homophobe that it may have cost Kluwe a job in the NFL.

Both players, in very different ways, illustrate that despite all the progress made by the LGBT community in sports over the last decade, some things are very much the same.

Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor

Flash back to 2002, and it was baseball's Mike Piazza uttering those recurring words, "I am not gay" at a news conference after a midseason tabloid report stating otherwise.

Pointedly denying a similar gay rumor more than 10 years later, while obviously personally important to the intensely private Rodgers, highlights that being gay in sports -- or being perceived as gay -- still carries a huge stigma (though mainstream conversations often steer toward men's sports, this problem is rampant in women's sports as well).

And this was so, even after the feel good year of 2013, when we saw monumental strides with the coming out of the WNBA's Brittney Griner, MLS star Robbie Rogers and the NBA's Jason Collins.

Speculation of homosexuality is still perceived as such a threat that Rodgers, who makes an estimated $6 million a year in endorsements, felt the need to characterize the rumors as "crazy" and his radio co-host, in an awkward, fumbling moment, expressed sadness that the rumors were started in an "attempt to make you look bad." And according to Kluwe, his vocal support of marriage equality was so intolerable to Vikings assistant coach Mike Priefer, that the coach once said in a team meeting: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." (Priefer issued a statement denying Kluwe's allegations and saying he does not tolerate "discrimination of any type.")

Kluwe slams Vikings' 'cowards & a bigot'
Sports critic: Kluwe was below average

How are young sports fans hearing these messages? If you want to insult someone, the most surefire way is still to use the anti-gay F word. In fact, 85% of youth hear "gay" used as a slur on a regular basis and 80% of LGBT youth experience harassment and are five times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide.

Time and time again, educators will point to the importance of peer leadership in improving this climate, and, more often than not, athletes are leaders at their schools. Yet frequently, the jock culture promotes silence at best or instigates and reinforces abusive behavior at worst.

I should know. As a three-time All American wrestler at the University of Maryland, I was one of those athletes who privately condemned an intolerant culture yet did nothing about it.

As a straight person, it didn't feel like it was my battle or my place. But in college, my world started to change. In addition to being an athlete, I was also a theater major. Seeing how accepting and supportive my theater friends were to people of all sexual orientations made me look at my locker room differently and question why my sport wasn't as open-minded and proactive.

Ultimately, fueled by the reasoned logic and fundamental humanity of the marriage equality battle, I found my voice and started speaking out. Now, as the founder of Athlete Ally, I travel around the country educating and empowering the athletic community to take a stand against homophobia and transphobia in sports.

With all the great strides last year, and the commitment from men's and women's pro leagues to fully address inclusion issues in professional sports, at times it has felt like advocacy groups like Athlete Ally (in full disclosure, Kluwe is an ambassador for the organization), GO! Athletes and Br{ache the Silence have already changed sports culture as we know it.

While Rodgers effectively put an end to the discussion of personal life and vowed to "keep on trucking, " what was left unsaid was any support for the LGBT community or contemplation of the broader questions such rumor-mongering raises about our sports culture and the specter of acceptance. Kluwe's allegations shed new light on why one of the NFL's best players and articulate spokesmen felt pressure to stand down on that type of intelligent dialogue.

Rodgers is one of the most respected, revered and highest paid players in the game. His fan base includes straight fans and gay fans. He is admired by youth in this country spanning all sexual orientations. And most of all, the ubiquitous tweet from fans after the gay rumors emerged was: "I don't care!"

Maybe one day, athletes everywhere, of every orientation and identity, will be confident that they can live by Kluwe's credo: Never be afraid to do what's right. If no one ever says anything, nothing ever changes.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Hudson Taylor.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:10 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
updated 8:11 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
updated 3:57 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 4:51 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT