By Maverick Lynes, Staff Writer
As an athlete, I have experienced first hand how sports can have a positive influence on someone’s life. The camaraderie I have experienced within the various teams I’ve been on have been a significant influence in my life. I have built long lasting friendships and have made amazing memories that are indescribable and impossible to put into words.
I was never naive about my abilities and I never saw being a professional athlete as anything more than a dream. However, my parents always ensured me that sports were not about that. Sports are so much more than “making it to the show” or getting a full-ride to a division one school. I was encouraged to see sports as a way to learn how to be a part of a team and learn valuable life skills while being active and healthy, and I saw them as all of those things. As I continued to play sports I realized that they were so much more than just having fun. Playing a sport has helped boost my self-esteem and most importantly it started to be an outlet for stress relief. I am sure many athletes will agree that when they are playing the sport they love, every stressor in your life seemingly goes away.
However, sports are far from perfect and there is one thing that plagues a lot of major sports; the inclusion of everyone, specifically the LGBTQ+ community. Many of the LGBTQ+ community feel excluded from the world of team sports and in 2018, that is unacceptable.
Sports have a unique way of bringing people together and forming strong bonds that stay with them for their entire lives. Everyone should feel accepted by the various sports and given that opportunity to experience the impact of being on a team can have in their life. It is a problem, that acceptance continues to be an issue in today’s society.
It is within male team sports that acceptance of openly gay athletes seems to be an issue. From an article on OutSports.com, it revealed interesting statistics from the last three summer Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016). The article states, “Throughout the last three Summer Olympics, 6 to 65 percent of the out gay women competing belonged to a team sport. On the men’s side, none of the openly gay athletes were on a team sport,” the article defines a team sport as competing alongside one or more teammates.
There is a stigma surrounding male team sports that are prohibiting current athletes from coming out and others from joining. The sporting community has not proved itself yet, the realization that there is still derogatory language present in the games shows how team sports still have a ways to go. As a hockey player, I still hear such language being used by my opponents and I am overwhelmed by shame that even my sport that I love has a long way to go.
On a more positive note, I have also noticed pro teams going to great lengths to promote the, “You Can Play” initiative. Many National Hockey League (NHL) teams have started participating in, “pride night” in which the players warm up in pride-themed uniforms and also use rainbow tape, all to promote equality within the sport. While such events are certainly a step in the right direction, I believe more of the major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS) need to be participating in similar promotions which would allow more athletes to feel more comfortable in their environment.
“YouCanPlayProject.Org” is one of many organizations that is helping make strides in the world of teams sports. Their mission statement explains, “You Can Play works to ensure the safety and inclusion of all in sports – including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans.” Their statement goes on to say, “You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.” This organization not only challenges the sporting community to be more accepting but also to make spectators less primitive and to only focus on the athlete’s ability to excel in the sport
It is up to the sporting community to promote equality, I believe it is a stigma that needs to be changed internally. More straight athletes need to show their support and ensure that team sports begin to become more inclusive. While we have made enormous strides as a society over time, there is still room for growth.