ESPN survey finds 62 percent of professional athletes back equality

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Brendan Burke.

An anonymous poll of 62 professional athletes from different sports conducted by ESPN Magazine found that 59 percent support same-sex marriage. The poll questioned players with the NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball on a variety of social issues.

ESPN found that NHL players are the most supportive of equality, with 92 percent of those polled saying they support same-sex marriage. Sixty-one percent of NFL players, 46 percent of NBA players and 45 percent of Major League Baseball players agreed.

The low number of respondents prevents the poll from having statistical validity. But the findings were consistent in showing differing level of support for progressive social issues in different sports. For example, baseball players consistently expressed more conservative views. They were the only group in which a majority did not support the legalization of marijuana, for instance.

Meanwhile, the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team recently created a You Can Play video to support LGBT people in sports. The You Can Play project is modeled after the It Gets Better Project that supports struggling LGBT youth with videos of people expressing words of encouragement. You Can Play was launched about six months ago, inspired by the death of openly gay Miami University hockey manager Brendan Burke in a tragic accident.

Sports figures have become increasingly involved in fighting homophobia. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe became a flash point in the LGBT civil rights struggle after he penned a blistering open letter to a Maryland state lawmaker who criticized another NFL player, Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, for supporting gay marriage.

Constitutional amendments involving same-sex marriage are on the Election Day ballots in both Minnesota and Maryland.