TAG | Cyd Zeigler
Over the past four months, Outsports, the popular blog cover the gay community in sports, has been publishing a list of the 100 most important moments in LGBT-sports history (dating back to the early 1970s).
Since becoming passionate about this subject myself only recently, I’ve spent the past 5 years or so catching up on this specific history. I try to read as many of the books and articles out there, but even still, there are events I’ve missed hearing about.
For anyone else interested in the topic, the list Outsports published is a tremendous way to catch up. Kudos to Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski for the wonderful job they did compiling this list.
Here are the top 10 (you can see the complete list here):
1) Dave Kopay comes out / 1975 / football
2) Martina Navratilova comes out / 1981 / tennis
3) Billie Jean King outed / 1981 / tennis
4) Publication of ‘The Front Runner’ / 1974 / books
5) First Gay Games / 1982 / various sports
6) Corey Johnson’s story is told / 2000 / football
7) Billy Bean comes out / baseball / 1999
8) John Rocker spews homophobia to Sports Illustrated / 1999 / baseball
9) First gay softball world series / 1977 / softball
10) Matthew Mitcham wins diving gold / 2008 / diving
Beyond the top 10, here are some of the moments I like, find important, or otherwise feel like linking to you directly:
17) Brendan Burke passes away / 2010 / hockey
81) Brendan Burke comes out / 2009 / hockey
Burke’s coming out and subsequent passing has transformed the discussion of gay rights in hockey. Patrick, his brother and scout of the Philadelphia Flyer, and Brian, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, continue Brendan’s legacy by fighting for the LGBT community.
21) Tim Hardaway tells radio host, ‘I hate gay people’ / 2007 / basketball
This story is particularly noteworthy because of the growth of Hardaway who recently spoke in support of LGBT rights in El Paso, Texas.
39) ESPN hires LZ Granderson / 2004 / sports media
LZ continues to build of following for his outstanding writing with CNN and ESPN. His ability to comment on a wide variety of issues relating to society and sports is incredible, and accordingly, his visibility as an openly gay man is tremendous.
44) Kye Allums comes out / 2010 / college basketball
The inclusion of transgender participation is going to come even after the barrier is broken down for the community. Thus, the progress is Kye Allums playing (and the subsequent developments with the NCAA adopting formal guidelines for transgender athletes to compete) is incredible.
45) Hudson Taylor openly supports gay rights / 2010 / wrestling
Hudson is probably my favorite ally out there. Have you seen the work he does? I can’t think of a single straight athlete that has committed themselves so seriously to fighting for my rights, and for that, I am incredible thankful.
50) Rick Welts comes out / 2011 / NBA
The news that Rick Welts was hired by the Golden State Warriors signifies how far the sports world has come. That he is out, and had no problem finding a job, is outstanding.
78) NAGAAA sued over straight-athlete limit / 2010 / softball
I’ve already vocalized my opinion on this issue, so I’ll just link you to my thoughts on the matter if you’re interested.
Three time Super Bowl Champion and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin made his most strong and public statement supporting the gay community. As part of the feature, Irvin revealed that his older, now deceased brother, Vaughn was a gay cross-dresser and discussed how the fear of any association with the gay community may have been one of the reasons he embraced the hyper-masculinized behavior during his playing days for which he was well known.
Irvin acknowledged some of the unfortunate stereotypes that drive behavior in male sports, “Growing up, whoever had the most women and the nicest car, he was the man,” he says. “So when you get in the locker room, you remember that. I’m gonna get all the girls so that everybody says, ‘Michael’s the man.’”
In addition, Irvin very honestly revealed how the knowledge of his brother’s sexuality and cross-dressing may have contributed to his womanizing behavior during his career: “maybe some of the issues I’ve had with so many women—just bringing women around so everybody can see—maybe that’s residual of the fear I had that, if my brother is wearing ladies’ clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic? I’m certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why I was making these decisions, and that came up.”
This sort of revelation (and the subsequent discussion) rarely occurs in sports because so few athletes are as willing as Irvin to reveal their private insecurities and the insecurities that are so prevalent in male sports culture. By opening up, we (or they: the media, academics, organizations, etc.) can begin to discuss these issues in more depth, hopefully working to change the culture in sports.
Even though he is not gay, Irvin acknowledged the weight of the burden in hiding the truth that someone close to him was gay, “I was afraid to even let anyone have the thought. I can only imagine the agony—being a prisoner in your own mind — for someone who wants to come out. If I’m not gay and I am afraid to mention it, I can only imagine what an athlete must be going through if he is gay.”
But in recognizing how tough that must be for a gay closeted player, Irvin is committing his voice and support: “If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him,” says Irvin. “That’s why I do my radio show every day. When these issues come out, I want to have a voice to speak about them. I think growth comes when we share. Until we do that, we’re going to be stuck in the Dark Ages about a lot of things. When a guy steps up and says, ‘This is who I am,’ I guarantee you I’ll give him 100% support.”
In becoming and embracing his status as one of the most famous and well-known allies in all of sports, Irvin had very powerful and poignant words, with particular messages for the religious and African American communities.
Being passionate about gay rights is not always the easiest thing to do in any community, and I know Irvin has faced much opposition for doing so dating back to his early days as a radio host in Dallas.
I was fortunate to live in Dallas while he was on the air (he now is on WQAM in Miami). I can tell you that he is one of the most passionate and forthcoming personalities you will ever hear on air. He would have Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler (author of the Out Magazine feature) as a regular guest on the show and would defend doing so any time a caller would have something negative to say about having a gay guy as a guest on the show.
And, believe me, he certainly never shies away from sharing his love of God or talking about religion either. During his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he referenced God 14 times. The next most referenced “person” was his wife, Sandy, who was mentioned twice. In wanting to eradicate homophobia in every corner of American society, Irvin “points to churches that have skewed the word of God to persecute those who don’t share their dogma.”
Irvin has his own approach for using his faith as a source to drive his advocacy: “The last thing I want is to go to God and have him ask, ‘What did you do?’ And I talk about winning Super Bowls and national titles,” Irvin says. “I didn’t do anything to make it a better world before I left? That would be scary.”
Irvin also “shakes his head at the black culture he says has gone adrift in a sea of homophobia.”
I had an interesting exchange with a young African American male this past week, so I’m especially grateful for Irvin’s timely message: “I don’t see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life. No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”
I can’t say enough about how incredible this feature was. I especially want to thank Cyd Zeigler from Outsports for this piece (as well as 3 of the other 4 pieces for this special issue). The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association just gave their 2011 Excellence in Journalism Awards. If Cyd isn’t nominated (and I’ll say win, pending what happens in the next 10 months) for this piece, it will be a travesty.
The Media + Internets Response
As you may know if you’ve read my blog at all, I’m always fascinated by how these types of pieces are received by the media and the general populace on the Internet. I often pay particular attention to what news outlets say (if anything at all), how anonymous users comment on articles, what is the response on Twitter, etc.
ESPN and Sports Illustrated passed on the story without adding much commentary. Not the ideal, but for the two leading sports news outlets, their first priority is to get the story posted. We’ll pay attention to what the main personalities of each has to say in the coming days.
Yahoo!’s Shutdown Corner noted Irvin’s passion, called it a “fascinating read,” and then closes with a nice jab to DeSean Jackson (thus, showing their support for Irvin’s message).
Deadspin called the feature “fantastic” and then compared the story to the DeSean debacle (a story which they broke) noting that they hoped the Irvin feature would “lead to more progress on the issue.”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote my favorite piece on the feature thus far. Florio declares that PFT “admires” Irvin and that “it’s important for more and more people in positions of influence to express similar views, given that gay players certainly have played and are playing every type of professional sport, striving to keep that secret for fear of being bullied, berated, and ultimately rejected.”
Florio adds (and may I toot my own horn a bit, something I wrote in my 1st substantive post on this blog, “What will it take for an athlete to come out?”): “Tolerance needs to come from the top of the organization, along with a commitment at each level of management to insisting on an attitude and atmosphere of respect.” Amen, Florio.
Michael Irvin’s interview in Out Magazine is ______. What do you think? http://bit.ly/qg6mLp #IrvinInOut
Naturally, I decided to sample the mentions of @NFL for a bit to see the response. I’d say it was about a 80% positive, as you can see below.
RaiderFREAK86 (and 5 others): gay
Burrberri: ground-breaking #IrvinInOut
NewTattoo: It’s refreshing to have a sensible opinion from a(n ex) football player, given the ‘outpourings’ by more recent players.
RealFLYTE: Unselfish? Thoughtful?
WideRights (oh right, that’s me!): Amazing. Timely. Important.
Pattylopez1: awesome. Equality should be supported by all. #IrvinInOut
Rsjwilson: a step in the right direction
SherylA_Stephen: Michael Irvin’s interview in Out magazine is HONEST!
Rick_silva: Michael Irvin’s interview is disgraceful. This country is in a lot of trouble. I’d hate to be a kid growing up today. #IrvinInOut
Its_Sare_Marie: I think it’s progressive & very admirable of Michael Irvin to open himself up like that #IrvinInOut
Ncasports: A great statement for equality!
FarrisMom1: absolutely awesome
ACCEric: Pretty Cool
MsPinkLA: Wow, this story may save someone’s life!
AdamPalukaFOX23: a good thing.
Valvee74: AWESOME. About time.
JohnTCpsu: Absolutely, positively awesome.
Whew. And that was just during about an hour. Outsports reported that Adam Schefter, Steve Wyche, other colleagues (including Albert Breer, an OSU alum!) tweet support for Michael Irvin and that “Michael Irvin” is a top-5 trending term on Twitter today.
For Additional Reading
The rest of the features in Out Magazine weren’t as lengthy as the one on Irvin but they still provide a glimpse into the motivations of 4 other tremendous sports allies. Cyd Zeigler also writes 3 of the 4 features:
Ben Cohen: Action Man, by Aaron Hicklin
Hudson Taylor: Mission Possible, by Cyd Zeigler
Mike Chabala: The Equalizer, by Cyd Zeigler
Nick Youngquest: Full Exposure, by Cyd Zeigler
Additionally, Outsports has a little background piece to the Irvin article that talks about how it came to be.
After a majorly publicized event, like the Kobe Bryant’s homophobic slur story yesterday, I am always fascinated by the response in the public. I like to observe it as barometer of the current state of homophobia throughout all aspects of the sports industry and culture.
On one hand, we saw the extremely homophobic, online trolling that comes with anonymity on the Internet, evident in the comments to my post on the story. The irony of those comments is that they suggested that Kobe’s slur was not a problem because it didn’t hurt anyone or contribute to a culture that actually harms anyone while simultaneously being shining examples of the problem.
Then, on the other, we saw, and continue to see, responses from organizations and the media that unequivocally condemn this type of behavior.
David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA, made this statement in issuing a $100,000 fine: “Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable. While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”
And this morning I read an exceptional column by Los Angeles Times writer, Bill Plaschke, titled, “Kobe Bryant needs to say more after slur.”
Not cool, Kobe.
You casually toss around an anti-gay slur as if it were a 19-foot jumper, something you do every day, part of your vocabulary, part of you.
You issue an initial apology with no admission that you were wrong or the word was wrong, an apology that puts the onus on everyone else for taking it wrong.
This isn’t flying, Kobe.
You called someone a “faggot,” and you say you didn’t mean to offend anyone? That may work in the insulated sports world, but not in a diverse and tolerant Los Angeles that has mostly supported you for your entire adult life.
You need to fix this, Kobe.
Later in the article, Plaschke quotes some great words from Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler:
“Gay Pride parade, West Hollywood, middle of June, Kobe rides a float, and we’re all good,” said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com, the locally based gay sports website. “And if he’s playing in the NBA Finals then, we can find something else.”
“Los Angeles is one of the gayest cities in America, and the message I’m getting from many is that they are no longer Kobe Bryant fans,” Zeigler said. “You can’t use that word and get away with it anymore, because the gay community is just tired of hearing it.”
I made sure to watch this week’s episode of ‘Bones’ titled, “The Dentist in the Ditch,” because Cyd Zeigler from Outsports tipped off that the show was going to have a storyline about gay football players. Now that you can watch the entire episode online, I wanted to pass the story along.
It takes a while to get to the storyline about gays in sports, and there are some sub-plot stories between the characters that you probably only care about if you follow the show week-to-week. Overall, however, I’m pleased with the presentation and statement the episode made.
The female lead, played by Emily Deschanel, delivers several lines that seem unnatural in the script (or maybe just in the delivery). Regardless, the lines carried with them a strong message challenging the stereotypes that gays in sports so frequently are faced with, and I am glad they were included.
It would not surprise me if Zeigler, who is friends with a consulting producer on the show, helped get some of these themes addressed by the episode. Maybe as a gesture of thanks to Zeigler for the assist, several of the characters in the episode were named after people in his life (him, his partner, etc).
That is pretty cool, if you ask me, and having met Cyd recently, I have to say he deserves a nifty little tribute like this. He’s been very supportive of what I am trying to do here and is always willing to offer advice.
I have very little time to make this post before the game, so I will keep it short and sweet. I hate that there is not a playoff to crown the champion of college football. I’ve gone back and forth on the issue with a classmate recently, and although it is impossible to change anyone’s opinion that is so deeply rooted, I have to state my case now.
To do so, and to keep myself on point, I want to respond directly to the argument from BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock that was relayed in an article posted today on Sports Illustrated. The second paragraph reads: “Bill Hancock said a playoff at college football’s highest level would lead to more injuries, conflict with final exams, kill the bowl system and diminish the importance of the regular season.”
Injuries are a part of the game, and every other division of college football finds a way to deal with injuries through and end-of-season playoff. Those schools also find a way to work around the final exams. The bowl system died when they created 87 or so bowl games, and further, you can still tag each of the games in the playoff as a specific bowl game and still play the other 50 meaningless games pairing random teams in glorified exhibition matches.
The affect a playoff would have on the regular season is the most compelling argument, but I also think it works against those that argue against a playoff. The argument is that a team can still make the playoff with 1 or 2 losses, thus those powerhouse matches (Florida-Alabama recently comes to mind) would mean less as each will most likely still make the playoff and have a chance to be the national champion.
To a degree, yes; however, it will certainly affect seeding in the playoffs, and if that important matchup is played early in the season and you lose, you’re going to have to play perfect the rest of the way. And most importantly, there is something unique about the passion of college football; in my view, that passion would survive and those top-10 matchup games will still be filled with pride and intense competition.
Further, this argument is founded on the idea that games only matter if they have a bearing on the national championship. If a school loses their first two games, do they stop playing the rest of the season? What about schools that know they do not have a chance; should they not even suit it up for game one?
Ultimately, there are arguments that go back and forth on each side. Most of it, even what I’ve said here, is speculation. At the core, to me, it just feels wrong and dirty to have it settled this way. Boise State is 49-3 since 2006 with two undefeated seasons since then. And it is not just the small schools that get wronged without a playoff. During the Penn State / LSU game it showed a state that PSU has been undefeated 5 times under Joe Paterno, but only the national championship once. So you may believe that a Boise State type school couldn’t hang with the big boys, what do you say to those 4 Penn State undefeated teams that never got a shot?
To close, a poll by Quinnipiac University, reported in SI, showed that 63 percent of fans want a playoff, while only 26 percent want to keep the current system (leaving 11 percent undecided). ‘”College football fans are not in love with the current system in which two teams that play for the national championship are picked by computers, sportswriters and coaches,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Settle the question on the field, voters say more than two-to-one.”‘
And if you’re wondering, I’m still going to watch the game. I’m not as strong as Cyd Zeigler over at OutSports who is so anti-BCS that he will not watch and posted his list of other TV programming options today during the game. Hilarious. Keep up the good work, Cyd.