Tag Archives: athletics

UW-Madison statement calls Obama noose costume ‘despicable’

At the University of Wisconsin weekend football game against Nebraska, a fan wore a President Barack Obama mask and a noose around his neck.

The fan took off the noose when asked by Camp Randall Stadium staff.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank says that once the noose was removed, the rest of the costume fell within the stadium’s costume policies.

Blank and athletic director Barry Alvare have issued this statement on the incident:

To the Badger community,

What we saw Saturday night at Camp Randall was despicable and caused an immense amount of pain throughout our community. And it should have, as a noose is a symbol of one of the vilest forms of racial hatred and intimidation in our country’s history.

As many have noted, thousands of African-Americans were lynched in the United States from 1882-1968. We can’t ignore the significance of this history and we can’t underestimate the symbolism of a noose to all those who see that image today.

A noose displayed in this fashion has no place on campus. Together, the Athletics Department and the University’s Office of Legal Affairs are initiating a review of stadium policies with the goal of ensuring that symbols of this type are not displayed in our stadium again.

We have work to do at UW-Madison on campus climate issues, and an incident like this only deepens the divides across campus. Both the University administration and Athletics Department are committed to doing this hard work, while being acutely aware that we are a long way from where we want to be.

To those who have spoken out about this, we hear you and we thank you for your feedback and concern. Together, we will continue to strive to make UW-Madison a place where all Badgers can thrive.

Rebecca Blank, Chancellor

Barry Alvarez, Athletic Director

From Copa To Korea: Winter Games in Pyeongchang next up

Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, set up a virtual-reality ski simulator — complete with fake, blowing snow — on Copacabana Beach.

“Having sun and sand is normal here, but not snow,” said local Danieli Evangelista, stepping off the make-believe ski slope after waiting in line for 30 minutes for a taste of winter during the Summer Olympics held earlier this month in Rio. “Hardly anyone here ever sees snow. It’s very cool, a very real effect.”

It’s also about to get very real for the next hosts of the Olympic Games.

“We’re not ready to go today, but we’re getting ready,” Kim Jaeyoul, vice president of the Pyeongchang organizing committee, told The Associated Press.

South Korea’s games will be the first of three straight in Asia, joining the Tokyo Summer Games in 2020 and the Beijing Winter Games in 2022. These come after a run of difficult games in Sochi, Russia, and now Rio de Janeiro, with the International Olympic Committee looking for “a safe pair of hands,” as Japan labeled its winning bid three years ago.

Yet organizers in Pyeongchang have struggled with construction delays, local conflicts over venues and a slow pace in attracting domestic sponsorship. This contrasts with the smoother run-ups to the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 World Cup that South Korea co-hosted with Japan.

“Unlike the 1988 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup, it was not the central government but a province that led the efforts to bring the Olympics,” said Heejoon Chung, who teaches sports science at South Korea’s Dong-A University. “There is a sentiment that the Winter Games are more about Pyeongchang than the nation as a whole.”

The Pyeongchang organizing committee named Lee Hee-beom its new president three months ago. It was the second leadership change in two years, and that’s worried the International Olympic Committee.

Lee bowed to IOC President Thomas Bach, and then to almost 100 IOC members, before addressing the full membership just days before the Rio Olympics opened.

“I’d like to assure you that our preparations are fully on track,” Lee told them.

In introducing him, Bach called Lee a “very dynamic and reliable leader,” and joked that he “promised he will be with us” until the games take place.

Organizers say that after a rocky start, 90 percent of the sponsorship target of $760 million will be met at the end of the year. Sponsorship will provide about one-third of the 2.2 trillion won, or $2 billion, operating budget. Kim said the budget would be adjusted in the next few weeks, compensating for inflation.

Six new competition venues are about 80 percent complete, and a new high-speed rail line will be finished in June of 2017 and in operation the following January. The line will link Incheon airport to Pyeongchang and reduce travel time to 90 minutes from almost twice that much.

Pyeongchang is also building a controversial sliding center for bobsled, luge and skeleton, after rejecting an IOC suggestion that it use a complex previously constructed for the games in Nagano, Japan, to save money. The cost is 124 billion won ($112 million) for a venue that could be a white elephant if not managed properly.

Gunilla Lindberg, the IOC member heading the planning for Pyeongchang, said the sliding center and the International Broadcast Center are “slightly delayed.”

Meantime, competition is heating up between South Korea and China over whose Olympic ski venue might ultimately become a destination for Asian tourists. Beijing planners have picked Zhangjiakou as the ski site for the 2022 games. Pyeongchang has some advantages, as it gets more natural snow than Zhangjiakou.

“A ski resort built for the Beijing Games is not going to be enough, considering the population of China,” Kim said. “We want to attract Chinese, but also Southeast Asians.”

Pyeongchang is in South Korea’s Gangwon Province, and the central and provincial governments have been battling over who should pay the Olympic bills as skepticism grows about the long-term economic benefits of mega-sporting events, said Chung, the sports science professor.

“Pyeongchang mostly got what it wanted,” Chung said, noting the province has pushed off costs to the central government. “It has no choice. It’s still the Olympics, and you don’t want to look bad hosting it.”

Ready for Rio? Memorable moments from opening ceremonies

It’s almost game time in Rio, but first there’s the pageantry of the Olympic opening ceremony. Always splashy affairs, the parade of athletes this time around will take place Friday night at Maracana Stadium with a country-by-country show of fashion, along with speeches, flag-raising and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

For now, enjoy these moments from opening ceremonies of Olympics past:

LONDON 2012

First there was the green of the English countryside, then along came the queen.

Queen Elizabeth II “parachuted” into the stadium with James Bond, the one that’s Daniel Craig. Craig played himself after a fictional trip from Buckingham Palace to the stadium. The queen did not actually take flight, FYI.

More slapstick ensued when “Mr. Bean” actor Rowan Atkinson performed the theme from “Chariots of Fire” with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Oh, and who lit the cauldron? Not David Beckham. He bowed out after failing to make the soccer squad.

BEIJING 2008

Dazzling doesn’t begin to cover it.

First, more than 2,000 drummers played the Fou, a traditional Chinese instrument. They were followed by 10,000 highly rehearsed performers after giant Olympic rings sprang from the floor of the stadium. In all, there were more than 18,000 performers.

There were fireworks, and more fireworks, and still more fireworks, including some that were computer simulated. Lots of openers have fireworks, but they were invented in China some 2,000 years ago, so there’s that.

Everything from the silk road to chanting disciples of Confucius was represented in this ceremony.

OK, that was more than one moment, but this was a BIG opening ceremony.

SYDNEY 2000

Well, the Man from Snowy River scared his horse with the crack of a whip to open this opening ceremony, followed by a little girl who conked out in the middle of the stadium to introduce a dream sequence featuring huge jellyfish and other sea life.

But the best part was the last torchbearer, who waded into water and seemingly lit a soggy, spaceship-like cauldron on fire as she stood in the center. It was then airlifted up and up on a set of tracks amid waterfalls and fireworks.

Did I mention there were people on horses? Lots of them, including some who galloped into circles to form the Olympic rings.

LOS ANGELES 1984

A dude arrived by jet pack. ‘nuf said. The Jetsons generation had been patient.

MOSCOW 1980

This was the year of the U.S.-led Olympic boycott, reducing the number of participating countries to 80.

It was also the year of the stackable human. Pyramids of gymnasts and dancers constructed towers, including one with participants all in white surrounded by a circle of other participants on the ground in pink.

Another human construction came in yellow, with mad respect for the performers in the middle who had to lean out and hang upside down as the shape of the bodies fanned out.

A “children’s show” featured legions of other humans dressed as brown bears dancing and prancing before even more legions of humans in white shorts danced and pranced on white-headed hobbyhorses.

It wasn’t real, kids, but you might want to NOT look at it on YouTube.

Stability, extra grip make fat-tire biking a hit

There’s a new trend in mountain biking: Big, puffy tires that look like something NASA developed in case someone ever wanted to ride on the moon.

Yes, they look a little strange, but these fat-tire bikes have a smooth ride, even over the toughest terrain, and are an awful lot of fun to ride.

“You look at them and go, they’re kind of goofy, but once you ride one, it’s kind of hard to go back to a traditional mountain bike because of the additional stability and grip that you get,” said Greg Smith, an enthusiast who started the website Fat-Bike.com.

Fat-tire bikes have been around for decades; photos from a 1982 Iditasport race in Alaska show a bike with two wheels welded together for an easier ride over the snow.

The bikes started to become popular in the early 2000s in places where riders wanted to combat the snow, like Alaska and the Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Riders also took up fat-tire riding in sandy areas of New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

The trend has spread across the country, spurred by major manufacturers jumping into fat-bikes around 2010.

Now the puffy-tired rides are the fastest-growing segment of the bicycle industry and can be found from the deserts of Arizona to the beaches of Florida. “It’s the ultimate adventure bike,” said Billy Koitzsch of Arctic Cycles in Anchorage, Alaska. “It’s just a lot of a fun being able to go over more obstacles. Your height and width profile are going to be able to get you over rocks with more ease.”

Stability is the key component.

Regular mountain bikes have tires 2 1-2 inches or less in diameter, which works well on trails or dirt paths. But those tires also tend to slide out from under riders on corners when there’s anything loose on the trail like gravel or sand. They also get bogged down when the terrain gets softer, as with snow or heavy sand.

Fat-bike tires are 4 to 5 inches in diameter, looking like someone put dirt-bike tires on a mountain bike. The wider base puts more rubber on the ground, providing extra stability and traction. Fat-bike riders also use lower pressures in the tires, which adds balance and grip.

“It’s like a mountain bike on steroids,” said Smith, who lives in Milwaukee. “You can’t just put these tires on a traditional mountain bike because there isn’t enough clearance, but the basic mechanics are the same, just enlarged to take that bigger tire.”

In the early days, fat-tire bikes were homemade contraptions by riding enthusiasts who sewed tires together and welded or pinned regular rims into one bigger one. They also took welding torches to frames and forks, creating extra space to accommodate the puffy treads.

The fat-bike industry took a big leap forward in 2005, when Surly introduced the purple Puglsey, which had 65-millimeter rims and the 3.7-inch Endomorph tire.

By 2010, nearly every major bike manufacturer had a fat bike on the market. Now, there are three-wheeled varieties, smaller versions for kids — the aptly-named Fatboy — and even fat-tire unicycles.

Riding groups have taken up the fat-bike craze, often riding in large groups along beaches or across the snow, and there are fat-bike races, including 1,000-mile Iditasport races across the snowy tundra of Alaska.

“It brings people back to cycling: `Oh, I used to do that, that was fun,”’ said Koitzsch, who has been offering guided fat-bike rides since 1996.

On the Web …

http://www.arcticcycles.com

http://fat-bike.com

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.

PROgressive sports roundup: NBA, NHL, NFL and more

The San Antonio Spurs recently hired Becky Hammon as an assistant coach, making her the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff.

When Hammon retires from her 16-year WNBA career at the end of the San Antonio Stars’ season, she will move to the staff of the defending NBA champions, working with Gregg Popovich on scouting, game-planning and the day-to-day grind of practice.

“Nothing in my life has really ever been easy. I’ve always been someone who did it uphill,” Hammon said. “I’m up for challenges. I’m up for being outside the box, making tough decisions and challenges. … And I’m a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. Throw those all in there and this was the perfect challenge and opportunity.”

NBA REF MARRIES HER LONGTIME PARTNER

Violet Palmer made her biggest call yet: The NBA referee married her partner of 20 years on Aug. 1.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Palmer said she came out as a lesbian to her fellow NBA referees in 2007. She has not tried to keep her sexual orientation a secret from the league since that time.

“This is actually the big formal coming out,” Palmer said. “We are saying to the world, to everyone, here’s my wife of 20 years. This is the big coming out.”

Palmer married celebrity hair stylist Tanya Stine in Los Angeles. The ceremony was officiated by Basketball Wives LA star Tanya Young Williams, the ex-wife of former NBA All-Star Jayson Williams.

Palmer broke barriers in 1997 when she became the first female to referee an NBA game. Under scrutiny from her first tipoff, Palmer instantly proved she could withstand the grumbling and ref baiting that comes with forging a career in a men’s game. 

Palmer said she had been open about her sexual orientation in the NBA for years. There was never a formal public coming out because she didn’t want it to overshadow her work blowing the whistle on every star from Shaq to Kobe to LeBron.

ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALLER COMES OUT AS GAY

Arizona State offensive lineman Edward “Chip” Sarafin has told a local magazine he is gay, making him the first active Division I football player to come out.

A fifth-year senior, Sarafin told Phoenix-based Compete that he began telling teammates about his sexual orientation last spring.

“It was really personal to me, and it benefited my peace of mind greatly,” he said in the magazine’s August issue.

The walk-on lineman follows the precedent set by St. Louis Rams linebacker Michael Sam. Sam told teammates he was gay during his playing days, although he did not come out publicly until after finishing his career at Missouri.

Numerous other athletes have come out as gay the past couple of years, opening the door for players like Sarafin to do it without much fear of repercussions from teammates or coaches. Brittney Griner, the WNBA’s no. 1 draft pick in 2013, casually came out as a lesbian shortly after joining the Phoenix Mercury. Massachusetts sophomore Derrick Gordon became the first active, male, openly gay Division I basketball player when he came out in April. And Jason Collins became the first openly gay player to play in an NBA game after signing with the Brooklyn Nets last season.

In other sports news …

• The NHL, in a first of its kind report, says that climate change threatens hockey, a sport that many pros began playing on the frozen ponds and lakes of North America. “The NHL represents the highest level of hockey in the world,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “But before many of our players ever took their first stride on NHL ice, they honed their skills on the frozen lakes and ponds of North America and Europe. … Major environmental challenges, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity, affect opportunities for hockey players of all ages to learn and play the game.”

• NFL teams, to guard against another bullying scandal, held sensitivity sessions during training camp. The focus during the pre-season has been on St. Louis, where the first openly gay player in NFL history, Michael Sam, is in training. The team has treated Sam just like most of their players, despite the extra attention seventh-round draft pick has been getting from the press.

• NFL innovations coming this season that fans might notice: Teams will deliver pre- and post-snap photos to coaches and players on the sidelines. The uprights will now extend to 35 feet above the crossbar, up from 30 feet. All seven game officials will now be able to communicate with each other during NFL games via wireless microphones. And the referee will be able to consult with the vice president of officiating during replay reviews.

• The 95th season of the NFL kicks off in Seattle on Sept. 4, with the Packers taking on the Seahawks. Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden will perform a pre-game show outside the stadium. Ariana Grande will sing the anthem and Bob Costas will lead the broadcast team. 

• The Green Bay Packers this summer unveiled a bronze statue outside Lambeau Field that honors one of the team’s traditions: the Lambeau Leap. The sculpture pays tribute to the post-touchdown celebration of a player jumping into the stands behind the end zone. Former Packers safety LeRoy Butler is credited with starting the ritual on Dec. 26, 1993, in a game against the Los Angeles Raiders.

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The last closet | A game plan for liberating gay pro athletes

Recent sports headlines have shown a marked uptick in the number of straight athletes giving homophobes the penalty flag. That could lead an observant scout to predict that the hinges might soon come off the door of the last closet.

The last closet. This isn’t a reference to professional tennis or golf, cycling or running, gymnastics or swimming. Many out LGBT athletes have played on courts and links. They’ve raced on tracks and in pools, including groundbreakers such as transgender tennis player Renee Richards and superstars such as Grand Slam champ Martina Navratilova.

Neither is the “last closet” a reference to the women’s pro leagues, where there have been a number of out athletes, including Sheryl Swoopes, the first player to join the WNBA and a three-time MVP sometimes referred to as “the female Michael Jordan.”

The “last closet” is a reference to the barriers keeping gay men from coming out in professional team sports, the three-lettered powerhouse leagues – the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and MLS. The Last Closet campaign that launched earlier this fall estimates that more than 50,000 athletes have played on pro U.S. teams since the days of the Chicago White Stockings. The number who have come out publicly while still playing? Zero.

The campaign, headquartered in San Francisco, developed out of a documentary project by Woman Vision. The filmmakers were curious to know why no male player in the top five major sports leagues had come out publicly while still in the game. As they searched for answers, they found reluctance in the sports world to even discuss the question.

So, the Women Vision/The Last Closet production team launched an activist campaign to help bring a gay sports hero out of the closet and, along the way, educate against homophobia in sports. The campaign is as planned out as a sports season when contract negotiations don’t cause disruptions. Each phase of the effort “targets entities that can effect change at their unique level,” says Fawn Yacker, The Last Closet project director.

Through December, The Last Closet is urging fans to write letters to NBA commissioner David Stern, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, MLB commissioner Bud Selig, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and MLS commissioner Don Garber. All five men refused interviews for the documentary.

As WiG went to press, about 1,100 people had emailed, faxed or tweeted the commissioners to ask them to endorse the campaign, talk about homophobia, invite gay players to come out and think about creating a support system for those athletes.

“We want to have this as public record, on camera,” Yacker says.

“When leaders speak up on record, it alters the culture within the sport,” she adds. “They set the tone. Commissioners have in many cases levied fines for homophobic verbal abuse. This is a great step forward. When athletes know the consequences of their actions, it may begin to alter habitual behavior. What is needed, however, are commitments from these leaders to continue to move forward.”

In addition to encouraging fans to write, The Last Closet is encouraging elected officials to join the effort. The first result of that push was a resolution from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors asking commissioners “to take part in The Last Closet campaign.”

The next stage in the campaign, January to March 2013, involves lobbying team owners. They “have great power within their teams to effect change,” Yacker says.

The campaigners have an ally in at least one former owner and influential newspaperman. Kevin McClatchy, a prior owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and current chairman of the McClatchy Company board, came out as gay earlier this year, saying he didn’t want to continue living a dual life at 50. He told The New York Times that homophobic remarks he heard in sports had convinced him to stay in the closet for years. “I don’t think they equate breaking the color barrier with Jackie Robinson to, ‘Hey, by the way, we’ve never had one player announce they’re gay while playing baseball.’”

From April to June, The Last Closet campaigners will focus on reaching sportswriters and broadcasters. The campaign roster already includes Outsports.com co-founder Jim Buzinsky, former San Francisco Chronicle sports writer Gwen Knapp, former Times columnist Robert Lipsyte, and ESPN writer LZ Granderson.

Through the summer and beyond, The Last Closet will focus on lobbying players, followed by sponsors, coaches, managers, agents, retired stars, public relations staff and front office personnel. In this push, the activists already have allies in Rick Welts, the former CEO of the Phoenix Suns who came out as gay in 2011; Patrick Burke, the president of the You Can Play project and a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers; and Howard Bragman, the world-renowned publicist who helped Swoopes, Esera Tuaolo and John Amaechi come out.

The Last Closet’s timetable ends in June 2015. Might there be an out gay athlete on a pro team by then?

“Did the Giants sweep the Tigers for the World Series,” asks Hanson Merriwhether of Detroit, a baseball enthusiast and gay rights activist. “Same answer.”

Merriwhether and a legion of other gay sports fans have been petitioning professional sports teams to make “It Gets Better” videos against anti-LGBT bullying and to host LGBT fan nights, as well as encouraging prompt penalties for athletes who make hate remarks or take anti-gay actions.

“The response, in my opinion, has really been very good. The leagues are changing,” says Merriwhether. “Of course there are homophobes playing and watching sports, but there are also racists and anti-Semites and just plain idiots. There always will be. They are everywhere. But you know, ‘It Gets Better’ applies to professional sports. I think there’s an athlete out there right now who is probably seriously thinking about coming out. I really believe that.”

Some of the progress has to do with pros coming out in their retirement to talk about the homophobia they endured as players, including football player Tuaolo, baseball player Billy Bean and umpire Dave Pallone. All three are promoting The Last Closet campaign.

Straight allies

Progress also has to do with the explosion of straight athletes who have joined the national push for LGBT equality, including Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, retired New York Ranger Sean Avery, NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, NBA all-star Steve Nash, retired New York Giant Michael Strahan, Cleveland Brown Scott Fujita, former NBA star Isiah Thomas, and, perhaps most famously, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.

Kluwe became a poster athlete for the NOH8 campaign promoting marriage equality and was a big opponent of the anti-gay marriage amendment on the Minnesota ballot, which went down to defeat on Nov. 6.

Kluwe has heard the arguments that a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is best for pro sports because openly gay men could hurt morale and threaten locker room security. Asked about that, he’s scoffed. “Isn’t that the shallowest kind of thinking: that all of a sudden if a gay comes out, he’s going to be staring at you?” he recently told The New York Times.

Kluwe says he welcomes an openly gay teammate, as does Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin – the new fantasy football favorite who recently told Outsports.com that if a teammate came out, he would “accept it and just go along with our business.”

Much has changed in sports since 1979, when outfielder Glenn Burke, who was out to teammates, retired from the show. Burke played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, where general manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a honeymoon if Burke married a woman, and for the Oakland Athletics, where manager Billy Martin often called him a “faggot.”

Earlier this year, Oakland fans honored the ballplayer, who died in 1995 of AIDS-related illness, with a plaque in the Oakland Coliseum. The Green Stampede, a group that promotes baseball, celebrates the A’s and tutors youth, hosted the event that featured lots of high-fives – the hand-slap that Burke is credited with innovating.

“Glenn Burke was 30 years too early,” says Bay Area gay rights activist and Oakland fan Freddie Parsons. “His life ended sadly, but I think a gay player who came out now would make it, would make history too. It won’t be easy, but it wasn’t easy for Jackie Robinson or Monte Irvin or even Hank Aaron six years after them. And it hasn’t been easy for gay actors or politicians or soldiers.”

Activist/fan Merriwhether says, “It’s going to take bravery, no doubt. But that’s what the best athletes are. The greatest are the bravest, the boldest. Personally, that’s why I think we’re going to see the first to come out in baseball.”

Take that as a major league challenge to the NFL, NBA, NHL and MSL.

Yacker says she wants to see an out gay athlete in each of the big leagues.

“Over 85 percent of the population considers themselves sports fans,” she says. “One athlete saying the words ‘I’m a pro athlete and I’m gay’ would make a world of difference to LGBT youth who are struggling with their self-acceptance. It would also do what Jackie Robinson did for race in pro sports – it would change perceptions of gay people.”

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe had this picture taken for the NOH8 campaign promoting marriage equality. An outspoken equality supporter, he was a high-profile opponent of the anti-gay
marriage amendment on the Minnesota ballot, which went down in defeat on Nov. 6.

Oakland A’s: It Gets Better

The Oakland A’s this week became the latest professional sports team to create a video for the It Gets Better campaign to encourage LGBT youth.

The Major League Baseball team’s Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants, were the first MLB team to create a video, doing so last spring.

The A’s video features pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who earlier this season described as homophobic the “kiss cam” tradition of showing two grimacing men to get laughter from the crowd.

The video also features pitcher Dallas Braden, second baseman Jemile Weeks and stadium in-game host Kara Tsuboi.

“Everyone should feel comfortable being themselves,” Weeks told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So I wanted to tell kids to be confident and to know they have support.”

The Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies, Rays and Red Sox also have created It Gets Better videos.

The Milwaukee Brewers have not created a video, and a Change.org petition to encourage the team to join the It Gets Better campaign, which began following a series of gay-related youth suicides in the fall of 2010, has expired.

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