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GSM Live: LGBTQ+ Pride in Sport (Video)

Pride event at basketball game
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GSM Live: LGBTQ+ Pride in Sport (Video)

This June marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march which commemorated the Stonewall Uprising. Since 1970, the month of June has been a time for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their identity and their impact on the world. 

In GSM Live: LGBTQ+ Pride in Sport, panelists discuss the role of sport in supporting and empowering the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month and beyond. 

The panel included:

Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports and the National Gay Flag Football League.

Ashland Johnson, founder of Inclusion Playbook.

Chris Mosier, the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic trials and the founder of 

Rosario Coco, project manager of OutSport EU.

Billy Bean, former MLB player and the MLB VP and Special Assistant to the Commissioner.

On June 15, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Article VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from being discriminated against on the basis of sex. While this ruling is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community, other policies throughout the United States continue to infringe on LGBTQ+ rights and hinder LGBTQ+ participation in sport. 

Discriminatory policies like anti-transgender bills contribute to lower rates of sport participation among LGBTQ+ athletes. Johnson emphasizes that this impacts all LGBTQ+ athletes but the majority of the burden is placed on transgender athletes. She says, “We need to understand this as an LGBTQ+ issue entirely because when you have these anti-trans bills, it affects all LGBTQ+ youth.” 

Mosier recalls his own experience competing in a state with anti-transgender legislation. While deciding whether or not to attend a World Championship race in North Carolina after the state passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, he asked himself, “Do I put myself at risk and potentially have a horrible experience or dangerous experience in order to make the team, or do I forgo all of that work that it took to get me there and lose my opportunity to represent my country internationally?” 

On the international level, OutSport is striving to understand how to increase opportunities and protections for LGBTQ+ athletes primarily within the EU. Coco’s research indicates that risks associated with being an LGBTQ+ athlete in Europe are quite similar to those in the United States. In an assessment of 5000 people, 82% had witnessed homophobic or transphobic language in sport and 25% had refrained from participating in sport due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

In order to eradicate LGBTQ+ discrimination in sport, organizations with wide-reaching platforms need to set examples of genuine acceptance. Bean has been fundamental in moving the MLB towards this goal. He has implemented an education program throughout the league to ensure that LGBTQ+ players, coaches, and administrators are protected and accepted by their teammates and coworkers. 

Bean emphasizes how important it is that sports organizations initiate connections with the LGBTQ+ community. He refers to the New York Yankees, who founded the Yankees-Stonewall Scholars initiative and established a Stonewall plaque in Monument Park in addition to Pride nights. He says, “If you see integration with organizations and collaborations and partnerships that appear meaningful, then you earn the right to use that logo so then you’re not just exploiting and checking a box saying, ‘Look how great we are because we have LGBTQ+ friends.’”

Mosier states that by capitalizing on Pride month, rainbow-washing brands need to be held accountable throughout the year. He says “I think it gives us a lot of power in July and in August and moving forward in the eleven months that are not Pride month to say, ‘Ok, in June you thought it was cool to turn your rainbow logo. Now it’s season time, what are you doing for our community?’”

It is vital that LGBTQ+ allies stick to their promises on and off the field. To non-LGBTQ+ coaches, Johnson says, “Make sure you have policies that are open and accepting and inclusive and make sure you do everything you can so that when they are ready to come out, they are welcomed and encouraged on your team.”

Coco urges fans to contribute to protecting LGBTQ+ players by reporting homophobia and transphobia and by questioning their education, social norms, prejudice, and the current limitations of inclusion. He says, “We have to frame the problem not just as an LGBTQ+ problem, but as a general problem.” 

The necessary changes will take time, but there is strength in numbers. As Bean says, “Every athlete has to make that decision on their own if they want to be a part of it, support it, or reject it.” It is necessary that athletes, fans, coaches, administrators, friends, and family - LGBTQ+ or non-LGBTQ+ - continue to use their platforms to challenge the status quo, create more inclusive policies, and promote social change to advance LGBTQ+ rights.

About GSM Live
Global Sport Matters Live is a conversation series presented by Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University and Global Sport Matters. Diverse thought leaders and experts will come together virtually to give their perspective on the most relevant issues impacting sport. From their corner of the globe, a rotation of guests will discuss what they’re facing locally, take questions and ideas from a virtual audience, and share solutions that improve the world of sport.