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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 22, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 04
Sports Equality Foundation launches to form Gay athlete support network
Section One
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Sports Equality Foundation launches to form Gay athlete support network

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Gay athletes got a new support network on Wednesday with the launch of the Sports Equality Foundation.

The organization boasts the NBA's first openly Gay player Jason Collins and Gay ex-MLB player Billy Bean on its advisory board. Sports Equality Foundation says it will focus on empowering LGBT athletes and coaches to come out. According to the new advocacy foundation, this will spark change in locker rooms across the country that are perceived as unwelcoming to athletes who don't identify as straight.

'Since I came out a couple years ago, I've found that the most important tool we have to ending homophobia and transphobia in sports is people in sports coming out,' Anthony Nicodemo, a New York high school boys' basketball coach, wrote on Wednesday in the Huffington Post. Nicodemo is on the foundation's board of directors and is the chair of its advisory committee.

'More than bringing in campus speakers or conducting sensitivity trainings, it's the people coming out who have truly changed sports culture and shined a light on change that has already occurred,' he said.

The foundation, which already has a $100,000 commitment from the board, according to USA Today, will work on several different levels. Nicodemo says those levels include providing resources to those who seek to come out and a platform on which those who come out can share their stories.

The foundation's founders say they know change may not happen instantly. Discrimination in locker rooms has ranged from cases of homophobia to sexual hazing.

Both of those subjects appeared in the ABC drama 'American Crime.'

'There's super homophobia [in locker rooms], yet [some athletes] use homosexual acts as ways to dominate each other,' the show's executive producer Michael McDonald told The Washington Post last week. 'It's a very strange, strange environment.'

But Nicodemo says the current cultural makeup of the nation offers hope.

'We're at a time when people in sports are ready to embrace their teammates and colleagues who are LGBT,' he wrote. '[T]he vast majority of athletes in high school, college and the pros, the sports world around them is ready to embrace them: They just need to share their truth.'

Wade Davis, an openly Gay ex-NFL player who heads up the advocacy group the You Can Play Project, which has worked with Gay athletes seeking to come out since 2011, says the more younger athletes feel comfortable coming out, the better.

'I really, truly envy any person who is out at a young age,' he said. 'I look at them with such admiration, and try to tell them how courageous they are, because they don't see what they're doing as something that's so great.'

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