Team Pride

LGBT inclusion in sports.

LGBT Inclusion In Sports

Fact: Americans love sports. And throughout our country’s history, professional sports have helped advance understanding, acceptance, and equality. When done right, sports can reflect the best of American values because on the field, people are judged based on their skills, talents, and contributions rather than their identities. In the past, professional sports franchises and college athletic departments have taken public stances on the benefits of equality for women and people of color. More recently, public stances have been taken in the service of equality for the LGBT community.

Over the last several years, support for the inclusion of LGBT athletes, coaches, and fans has continued to grow. In 2013, Jason Collins made history by becoming the first openly gay NBA player. A year later, Michael Sam made history too by becoming the first openly gay NFL player. Unfortunately, there are still cases where players are judged based on their identities, rather than their skills. But now, the New York Giants are working to change that.

The Giants have teamed up with the You Can Play Project—an organization that works to ensure the safety and inclusion of LGBT athletes, coaches, and fans—and held an event with LGBTQ youth at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. (Check out the video). The Giants are also hosting a special game day on Sunday along with You Can Play and the Hetrick-Martin Institute.

The Giants are one of the first NFL teams to reach out to the LGBT community in such a public way, but a new study released by the Center for American Progress suggests that doing so could help a team’s popularity. According to the survey, a majority of respondents—56 percent—said they would have a significantly or somewhat more positive opinion of a professional sports team if it expressed support for LGBT athletes and fans, with similar responses for teams supporting laws that protect LGBT people.

In addition to increased support overall, the study found little evidence that teams would lose support as a result of advocacy for LGBT people: 36 percent of respondents said their opinion would not change at all if teams expressed support for LGBT fans and athletes and 35 percent said the same about teams expressing support for LGBT protection laws. In both instances less than 8 percent said it would have a negative impact.

BOTTOM LINE: For more athletes, the field is a safe place. But that should be true for everyone. Professional sports teams can and should take the lead on ensuring players are judged on their skills, not their identities.

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