Tag Archives: athlete

Billy Bean teaching MLB teams about inclusion in clubhouse

Billy Bean has come full circle, throwing out the first pitch for the first Mets Pride Night on Saturday against his former San Diego team.

Bean came out as gay after he left the Padres in 1995. Now he’s Major League Baseball’s vice president for social responsibility and inclusion. In the past two years, he’s talked to all 30 MLB ownership groups, various teams and players about struggling with his sexuality during his career and gay and lesbian inclusion in the workplace.

“The message is everyone is welcome that walks through the turnstiles to watch us play baseball,” Bean said. “The LGBT community is part of every community.”

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson approached Bean after he heard him speak to GMs in 2014. Since then, the former outfielder who had a six-year career with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Padres has participated in spring training, spoken with players and thrown batting practice. He’s helped former teammate and Mets coach Tommy Goodwin with the outfielders.

“(Alderson) wanted them to know about me,” said Bean, who grew up in Santa Ana, California. “My dad is a Marine Corps veteran, like Sandy. I grew up in a big family, very conservative. Lot of things that were explanations of why I chose to leave baseball as opposed to talk about what was going on with me.”

The Mets are among 10 teams hosting Pride Nights this season, and the first among the four New York men’s major pro sports to host the theme night. A portion of ticket sales will go to the LGBT Network, which promotes anti-bullying programs in the New York area.

Here are some things to know about Bean, who also talks to people in the front office, instructional leagues and minor leagues.

LIFE SKILLS: Bean says his job is to help younger players from all backgrounds and cultures understand workplace expectations. “A lot of people forget our players are 19, 20, 21 years old,” he said. “They’re world class baseball players, and they haven’t had time to learn all the ways of the world. We really prioritize messaging on life skills, domestic violence awareness and counseling about relationships. The inclusive conversation is a wonderful part of that comprehensive message.”

Bean says the comments in the clubhouse that “everybody’s been hearing for the last 500 years” will take time and education to reduce. “It was acceptable to be disparaging. When guys are ragging other guys, they feminize them. The comments were sexist as much as they were homophobic.”

TOUGH LESSONS: Bean says he quit baseball without talking to one person about why. “I had never come out to my family, I was living a very secretive, dark life,” he said. “My partner died of HIV-related causes on the eve of what was my last season.”

Brad Ausmus, the current Detroit Tigers manager, was Bean’s teammate and friend. He says Ausmus and his wife talk about how things “might have changed if I just would have told him. He would have said, ‘Don’t stop playing or just tell your parents or don’t tell your parents, just talk to us.’

“I didn’t realize there was a place for me in this world, and I didn’t even trust the people that loved me the most — my own family.”

Alderson was part of the Oakland organization when Glenn Burke, the first MLB player to publicly acknowledge he was gay, played for the Dodgers (1976-78) and Athletics (1978-79). Burke left the majors after receiving little playing time with the A’s. He died at 42 of complications from AIDS in 1995.

PROGRESS: Milwaukee Brewers minor league first baseman David Denson became the first active player in affiliated professional baseball to come out in August 2015. Bean says Denson called him for advice six months beforehand. “We made sure his parents were in the loop. I was surprised the day he did it. He texted me and said ‘You won’t believe what I just did.”

Bean says it’s not the goal for baseball players to reveal their sexuality, but it’s important to provide a respectful workplace. Currently, there are no out active players in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB. “It’s a personal decision. That’s not going to be how I judge the work we’re doing.”

Former Met Daniel Murphy, a self-described Christian, said he disagreed with the “lifestyle” of people who are gay after Bean spoke to the team in March 2015.

Bean says racism didn’t end the day Jackie Robinson ran across the field. He noted progress on LGBT issues moved forward with Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality and backward with some states passing laws prohibiting protections in housing and employment for LGBT people.

PRIDE NIGHTS: Philadelphia has hosted Pride Night since 2001, and the Washington Nationals celebrated their 12th. Others with the theme night are the Chicago Cubs, Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa Bay.

Lou DePaoli, the Mets’ executive vice president and chief revenue officer, calls New York a “diverse and inclusive city” and says “we are particularly proud to welcome the LGBT community.”

Community organizations can propose theme nights to the marketing departments of MLB teams.

Bean says the Mets are sending “a great message not only to their fans, but for all of baseball.”

Billie Jean King: Caitlyn Jenner helps transgender tolerance

Billie Jean King says Caitlyn Jenner has given people clarity about transgender issues beyond the progress already made four decades after they shared the international sports spotlight.

“The interview … really helped people to be clear in understanding, especially about gender vs. sexuality,” the 71-year-old former tennis star told The Associated Press. She was referring to Jenner’s interview on ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April. “Everybody’s always getting very confused with that. Then they finally realized they have nothing to do with each other.”

King won the last of her 12 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 1975, a year before Jenner, now 65, earned the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” by winning gold in the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics.

“Finally Caitlyn will be,” King said. “It’s been a long journey for Caitlyn, and I’m really happy for her.”

King occasionally traveled in the same circles with Jenner, given they were two of the most recognizable athletes in the 1970s.

King said, “We actually did a commercial together, but I don’t think they ever showed it.”

King was 29 when she defeated former professional tennis player Bobby Riggs, 55, in the famed “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973, putting gender issues in the spotlight.

When she started the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973, King helped pros accept a transgender player in their ranks — Renee Richards, who was denied the opportunity to play as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open.

The New York Supreme Court ruled in Richards’ favor, allowing her to join the women’s pro tour in 1977.

King said she called the players together after meeting with Richards for four hours. “I said `We’re going to have her on the tour, so get used to it.’ Some were unhappy, some were trying to figure it out. But it worked out fantastic,” King said. “The players ended up loving Renee.”

King played doubles with Richards, who reached the U.S. Open women’s doubles finals in 1977 with Betty Ann Stuart. Richards, who was also a renowned ophthalmologist, later coached Martina Navratilova and “really improved her backhand,” King said.

King marvels at how attitudes have changed since the early 1970s.

“Being educated, learning, having knowledge is so much better,” she said. “Usually things become less shame-based the more you know. An unknown is what people usually fear the most.”

Richards is still King’s eye doctor and “One of the best people I’ve ever known. She’s been a great role model.”

While Richards fought through the courts for acceptance, Jenner came out as Caitlyn via Twitter and was immediately named the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for the upcoming ESPY Awards on July 15.

King, who was outed as a lesbian in 1981, won the award for individual contributions that “transcend sports” in 1999.

“Caitlyn’s in for a whirlwind. She already has been, but it’s going to be crazy,” King said. “I think it’s really appropriate that Caitlyn’s won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.”

Woman sentenced to 90 days for hate-crime hoax

A woman who faked an anti-gay hate crime has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for violating probation, but she can apply to serve the time on house arrest.

Charlie Rogers, 36, of Lincoln was sentenced late last week in Lancaster County Court, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. 

Rogers had faced up to a year in jail for violating her probation. In March, she acknowledged that she failed to report to jail on Jan. 15 to finish her original 90-day jail sentence.

During her sentencing, Rogers said she didn’t mean to violate the conditions of her probation.

“Please let me go home,” Rogers pleaded with the judge, choking back tears. “I was scared.”

Rogers, a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln basketball standout, was convicted of lying to police about being attacked by masked men. Rogers, who has said she’s a lesbian, said the men carved anti-gay slurs into her skin. She reported on July 12, 2012, that the men who attacked her tried to set fire to her home before leaving. A neighbor told police that Rogers crawled from her home naked, bleeding and screaming for help.

But her story quickly fell apart and prosecutors said Rogers faked the attack because she thought it would inspire change in the treatment of gay people.

She spent seven days in jail after being convicted.

Prosecutors agreed to waive a 90-day jail sentence if she completed community service, but officials say she failed to complete that service.

Instead of reporting to jail on Jan. 15, Rogers began volunteering to cover her community service, logging 200 hours between Jan. 15 and March 9.

An attorney for Rogers said she had already applied to do the jail time on house arrest. If her request is denied, she must report to jail May 29.

ABC keeps tight lid on Jenner interview to air April 24

The first on-air promo for the April 24 broadcast interview with Bruce Jenner didn’t even show his face, an illustration of the line ABC News is walking in trying to drum up interest for the program while saying virtually nothing about it.

The two-hour interview special with the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion and estranged patriarch of television’s Kardashian clan is expected to touch on transgenderism and reports that Jenner may be transitioning.

ABC has released only a couple of non-specific quotes by Jenner and is not expected to reveal much more in advance of the Friday program, preferring to give Jenner the opportunity to address the topic in the full context of the interview.

Diane Sawyer has not spoken to outside media about the interview, which was conducted in February — one day in Los Angeles, another in New York. She’s scheduled to promote it on ABC properties Friday: “Good Morning America,” `’Live with Kelly and Michael” and “The View.” ABC News executives also haven’t spoken about it, not even confirming publicly until April 6 that the interview had taken place, until this the airdate was set.

“In producing this special, one of our goals has been to respect Bruce’s story,” said ABC News spokesman Van Scott. “We want Bruce to speak for Bruce. We’ve had this top of mind throughout the process from the booking and interviews to the promotion and final product.”

The tight lid enables ABC to avoid the issue of potentially “outing” a public figure before the person has had a chance to publicly address the topic. Not everyone is waiting: The New York Daily News this week published a front-page picture of a person they said was Jenner wearing a dress.

“I respect the way that (ABC has) handled this,” said Brad Bessey, executive producer of “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider.” “You have to separate Bruce Jenner and Bruce’s story from the media circus that is the Kardashians.”

The approach has left his syndicated entertainment newsmagazines starved for news. Bessey said they’ve done stories on the three 15- or 30-second promos that ABC has released.

The first ABC promo showed two Jenner images — one from behind and the other from the side as he talked with Sawyer, his face obscured by shadows. In the other two, Jenner is heard more clearly, and with two soundbites. “My whole life has been getting ready for this,” he said. He also talks of the importance of not hurting his children.

ABC’s handling of the story so far has been respectful, said Nick Adams, program director of transgender media for GLAAD. The organization that represents gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders has spoken little about Jenner.

“Sharing one’s story is something a person should be allowed to do in their own time and in their own way,” Adams said. Media speculation about a public figure’s gender identity increases harmful scrutiny on other transgender people, he said.

The interview was conducted before Jenner was involved in an auto accident in which another motorist was killed. ABC is expected to address the topic, although the timing precludes it from being raised with Jenner.

Some of Jenner’s children, pictured in one of the promos, also are expected to be interviewed.

Bessey predicted big ratings for the special. ABC is airing it on a Friday night, when TV-watching is usually low. Two big interviews are among the top 100 most-watched telecasts of all time in the U.S.: Oprah Winfrey’s 1993 talk with Michael Jackson, seen in 36.6 million homes, and Barbara Walters’ 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky, seen in 33.2 million homes.

Friday’s interview likely won’t approach those numbers, but should certainly exceed the Friday “20/20” average of 6.2 million viewers this season.

“I think people will be watching,” Bessey said. “I hope they’ll be listening.”

Bruce Jenner’s mom opens up about the celebrity’s gender journey

With speculation flying, Bruce Jenner’s mother opened up this week about the celebrity’s gender journey.

Esther Jenner, 88, has been besieged by calls from the media in recent days, but the widow in Lewiston, Idaho, isn’t interested in fueling gossip. Instead, in a wide-ranging, nearly hour-long phone interview, she praised the former Olympian son for courage, stopping short of some details that have been floated by unnamed sources online and in tabloids.

Bruce Jenner, who won gold as a decathlete in the 1976 Summer Games, has not publicly spoken about gender transitioning. Jenner’s appearance has gradually become more traditionally feminine. A publicist for the 65-year-old Jenner would not comment about Esther Jenner’s remarks. Nor would E! Entertainment on word that Jenner will appear in a reality series.

Highlights from Esther Jenner’s conversation with The Associated Press:

AP: Have you spoken to Bruce recently about his transition?

Jenner: It was brief and I said I was proud of him and that I’ll always love him. I never thought I could be more proud of Bruce when he reached his goal in 1976, but I’m more proud of him now. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s doing.

AP: He has opened up in terms of his gender identity, which he is now owning, as opposed to hiding like so many transgender people have to do? Is that right?

Jenner: That’s absolutely right. He said, `Mom, I’m still the same person.’ He said, `I’m still going to race cars, I’m still going to fly airplanes and I’m going to get my helicopter license.’

AP: How did it feel for him to come to you and explain?

Jenner: When I first learned about it, yes, of course it was a surprise.

AP: In a lot of cases, families really suffer from that kind of announcement.

Jenner: The family is close and very supportive of Bruce and we’re supportive of each other.

AP: Was it a shock?

Jenner: It was a shock. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it.

AP How did he explain it to you?

Jenner: He said, `I want to be honest about my identity and I know this is coming out in the press.’ He started by saying, `We need to have a long, serious talk.’ I am at peace with what he is and what he’s doing.

Editor’s note: The gender specific pronouns are part of the interview and are quotes.

Robbie Rogers signs contract with Galaxy

Robbie Rogers has agreed to a multiyear contract extension with the LA Galaxy.

The Galaxy didn’t announce the terms of their deal with Rogers, the first openly gay player in MLS.

Rogers has excelled since moving to full-time defense this season, starting 15 games and contributing two assists as a left back.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena says the 27-year-old Rogers “has proven to be a dynamic player in our league and an integral part of our success.”

Rogers joined the Galaxy in May 2013, ending the former Columbus Crew star’s brief retirement after coming out as gay.

After a frustrating start with his new team, Rogers has become a valuable contributor to the Galaxy’s run at a fifth MLS title.

The Galaxy host Seattle next weekend in the Western Conference finals.

Jason Collins: Common ground and conversation

I feel that we can all help start more conversations in regard to leadership, diversity inclusion and respect. The old adage never judge a book by its cover applies to all walks of life. I remember when I first went to Stanford University, I participated in a group activity with my entire freshman dorm. All of us were apprehensive about this new chapter in our lives. The leader had us stand in a straight line and would pose a question to the group. Students would either take a step forward or stand still based on their individual response.

I took a step forward. I looked around the room and saw a group of people of different religions, races, genders, you name it. And they all answered the same way I did. The actual questions that brought us together weren’t important; the questions and answers that followed were. All of a sudden, a group of strangers realized a collective common ground, which served as a jumping off point for conversation.

A lot of times it’s just a lack of exposure and awareness that is holding people back. Conversation and interaction help erase the lack of understanding by challenging people to discuss different things; share and appreciate new points of view. Eventually, we are able to accept and grow.

I’ve always found basketball to be a great vehicle to bring people together. It’s such an easy sport to understand. It’s just two hoops and a ball. You can play it indoors or outdoors and there is something about five people coming together — and finding common language.

What sports can do is create a safe space for children. Some kids are going through some really difficult circumstances and dealing with adversity. But when they are on the court for a few hours, there is a safe space and a safe environment to play, interact, talk and hang out. It’s so important to know that someone else out there cares about you, that someone is trying to help and is on your team.

When you see guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and many other players in the sport showing this level of care to work with young people, it’s pretty telling how important that type of work can be.

I’d invite people of all ages to be an ally to someone who is less fortunate. You might be in the midst of a good situation—but take the time to be a counselor, a mentor or just a positive role model because it’s a great thing to do and you never know when the person who needs the help could be you. At some point, you’ll be going through that tough time and you’ll appreciate the support.

There are so many ways to get involved. Last year, I was thrilled to work with the league to donate the proceeds of my Brooklyn Nets jersey to the Matthew Shepard Foundation and GLSEN. They are two organizations that do tremendous work to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Your gender, religion, race or sexual orientation has no effect on your ability to lead conversations. You can help others recognize the common ground and ultimately, you can change hearts and minds.

Jason Collins is an activist for LGBT civil rights and an advocate for improving the climate for young people in sports. He came out as gay at the end of the 2012-13 NBA regular season. When he returned to the court with the Nets, he made sports history.

Dallas Cowboys release Michael Sam

Michael Sam, who made history as the first openly gay player in the NFL, was released by the Dallas Cowboys.

The team made the announcement on Oct. 21.

Sam had been picked up by the St. Louis Rams. He was among the team’s final cuts at the end of the preseason and signed to the Cowboys practice squad on Sept. 3.

Sam was a former SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri and chosen late in the seventh round of the NFL draft — 249 out of 256.

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Jason Collins to finish season with the Nets

Jason Collins has been signed for the rest of the season by the Brooklyn Nets.

The NBA’s first openly gay player had finished his second 10-day contract, which meant the Nets had to sign him for the remainder of the season if they wanted to keep him.

Collins has added five points, six rebounds and six steals in eight games since signing his first deal on Feb. 23.

He’s been a reliable veteran big man on a team that has lost center Brook Lopez for the season and has recently been without Kevin Garnett because of back spasms.

Collins is playing his 13th season in the league, including six previous seasons with the Nets.

Here’s Johnny! Johnny Weir is free and out at Sochi

He promised himself something the first time he ever laced up a pair of skates. It’s the same thing Johnny Weir returns to in those quiet moments most evenings, just before the TV camera’s “on-air” light flashes red.

“I’m wearing makeup, a double necklace and a cream sweater,” he said. “I don’t feel an obligation to tone myself down.

“Part of being afraid is not knowing,” Weir added, “and I know Russia. I don’t feel afraid.”

At the moment, of course, it’s easy to feel that way. Air-time is still a few hours off and he’s sitting on a brick-red banquette inside a posh, Western-style hotel alongside his broadcast partner, former Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski.

The two became fast friends soon after they were paired as analysts on the NBCSN network’s figure skating coverage last fall. They’ve had a soothing effect on one another every day since.

“We want to be 80,” Lipinski said, “and still commentating on figure skating with each other.”

He constantly fusses over her, straightening the collar on her jacket or making sure every strand of blond hair is in place. For her part, every time they step out in public, Lipinski instinctively links her arm inside his, as though they’ve been a couple forever.

“I’m proud to be here,” Weir began again. “I’m proud that I can be here in my necklaces and my wedge booties, and nobody is saying anything. Nobody is looking at me weird, nobody is saying anything derogatory. I honestly get more of an uncool situation walking down certain streets in Manhattan or being in the center of our country.

“And so, as far as people being upset with me for being here,” Weir added, referring to those in the LGBT community who demanded he boycott the Olympics to protest a tough anti-gay Russian law, “I want everybody to know that I’m proud being here and I’m proud to be representing gay America in my own small way.”

Half an hour later, the two are standing in security lines, waiting to walk through a magnetometer en route to the NBC studios. On this day, he’s decided to accent the cream sweater, skin-tight black leather pants and matching wedge-heeled boots with a salt and pepper-tinged fur cut from the finest sable.

It’s an outfit that some people would die for and conversely, one that if worn in some corners of Russia by someone with less celebrity, might result in a severe beating or worse. Weir’s first trip outside the country to compete landed him in Slovakia as a 13-year-old. He never forgot walking alone through empty streets and down a dark tunnel one night trying to find his way back to the hotel.

On this day, as Weir walks through the magnetometer and collects his watch, necklaces and coat, the guards closest to that station begin rolling their eyes and snickering. In a heartbeat, nearly every pair of eyes in every other aisle are drawn to Weir.

But because he never, ever breaks character, Weir pulls on his coat, smiles, slides a black Prada handbag down to the crook of his elbow and heads for the exit, staring straight ahead.

Behind a microphone, Weir is fearless — just as he was throughout a skating career that began perilously late, probably peaked too early, and almost certainly would have garnered more ribbons, titles (he won three national championships) and Olympic medals (zero) if only he’d been less confrontational.

Yet that attitude, coupled with a fierce intelligence and a love of fashion that began with childhood and still knows no bounds, is what made Weir a first-class commentator from the very beginning.

“She’s too old to wear that baby pink color, especially with how tight it is,” he said about skater Stacey Kemp of Britain at one of the competitions Weir worked during the run-up to these Games. “She needs a look that’s more mature.”

“She was wearing a nightie,” he said at another, training his sights on Nathalie Pechalat of France, “which I don’t think should be featured in any athletic endeavor.”

And to be sure, Weir’s outfits have not gone unnoticed, either.

A half-dozen websites and countless commenters across social media track his wardrobe changes daily, which have ranged from a hot-pink vintage Chanel blazer to a conservative gray Billy Reid jacket. Each has been accessorized by colorful shirts and pocket squares, gaudy necklaces and cocktail rings — and on one occasion a crown braid set atop his jet-black hair — all of it seemingly on loan from rappers or someone’s elderly aunt.

Weir chronicles his favorites on his own Instagram account (http://instagram.com/johnnygweir ), featuring images with celebrities, regular fans and he and Lipinski hanging out.

Weir has been bashed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for wearing fur, by some inside the skating community — even while he was competing — for being too flamboyant, and, after coming out publicly in his memoir and marrying Russian-born Victor Voronov, for not being strident enough.

Besides himself, the only people Weir is out to please are NBC and the audience to which his role as a broadcaster has given him access to.

“In hiring me to have a voice and an opinion, they hired knowing full well,” he said, “knowing what kind of statements — fashion and otherwise — I like to make.”

For the pairs free-skating program, Weir sits to the right of Lipinski and Terry Gannon, a broadcasting veteran who is the third member of the crew. He rarely looks at the monitor in front of him, staring intently at the ice instead and constantly folding and unfolding his hands. He smiles often, winces occasionally when a skater takes a tumble and is at his most animated watching others sit in the “kiss-and-cry” area after a performance.

“My coach, for example, would sit and she would smile like this,” he said, drawing his lips tight, “and of course, she was talking between her teeth and saying the most horrible things in Russian, just screaming at me between her teeth. But of course, nobody could see what she was saying.

“Being judged in any way is difficult. But having to sit there and wait with the whole world watching you,” he said finally, “that’s a very difficult thing to do.”