Let's give some kudos to our athlete cousins across the pond!
The United Kingdom's Rugby Football League (RFL) has become the first national governing body of a major sport to support a campaign for LGBT equality. The league announced last week that they have joined British LGBT group Stonewall's Diversity Champions Programme.
"I am very proud to be a part of an organization that has a genuine commitment to equality and diversity," RFL's Equality and Diversity Manger, Sarah Williams said in a press release. "I am confident that the RFL as an organization and the wider Rugby League family will rise to the challenge and look forward working with Stonewall to make a real difference."
When the new season begins in March, the league will post advertisements like "Some people are gay. Get over it!" on rugby grounds and in programs and fanzines. The RFL will also organize a forum for staff and players on LGBT issues.
This is one of the largest direct actions towards combating homophobia in sports. And it was completely proactive! According to Williams, RFL joined the campaign after regional clubs had success working with local LGBT groups.
American teams could learn a thing or two from the Brits. Go to any major sporting event, and you still hear anti-gay slurs. GLAAD's office has fielded and taken action on calls from fans who have gone to baseball, football and other sporting events and have heard anti-gay slurs directed toward players and other fans.
But, we have seen improvement. After GLAAD connected The New York Times and some New York hockey fans earlier this year, Katie Thomas wrote about their experiences with homophobia at New York Rangers games. Then, representatives from the Rangers and Madison Square Garden met with former GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings and Director of the New York Gay Hockey Association Jeff Kagan.
Jennings said they discussed creating a public service announcement and more sensitivity training for Rangers employees. And although Kagan doesn't attend games as often as he used to, he hasn't heard as much anti-gay behavior or comments recently.
Efforts to end the chants and slurs are good, but let's address these anti-gay attitudes BEFORE they are vocalized. Teams can't wait until someone shouts something hurtful from the stands or a player makes an offensive comment in an interview. It's alienating and downright scary for LGBT fans.
GLAAD's Sports Media program continues to work with professional sports organizations to provide more outreach towards fans, and to act quickly and appropriately to show that slurs will not be tolerated at games.
We're all there (LGBT and straight) to cheer on our favorite teams. And we should feel comfortable and safe to do so.