The media is starting to pay close attention to stories surrounding LGBT athletes, fans and coaches. Within the past few days, there have been several reports drawing attention to anti-gay comments made in the sports world.
This is a big change from just a few years ago when, in 2006, Jay Mariotti was called a f***ing f*g by Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Many members of the press heard Guillen's hateful words, but only one reported on it. Today, reports of homophobic behavior are more visible and abundant and journalists are paying close attention.
Louis Nicollin, the president of French soccer team, Montpellier, faces a possible two month suspension after using an anti-gay slur to insult another player. This past weekend, Montpellier lost 2-1 to Auxerre. After his team’s loss, Nicollin used an anti-gay term to describe Auxerre midfielder Benoit Pedretti. He also threatened Pedretti and told him that his athletes would "take care of him" when the teams play each other again early next year.
He has since apologized for the comment, but will still appear in front of the French Football Federation's ethics commission on Nov. 16.
A Danish soccer team, FC Midtjylland, has fired its star goalie, Arek Onyszko, for homophobic remarks published in his new autobiography. The book, F**king Polack, was released yesterday. In a detailed passage, Onyszko wrote "I hate gays, I really do. I think it’s f***ing disgusting to hear them talk to each other as if they are girls. I can’t be in the same room as someone who’s gay. Look at them kissing each other – it’s sickening." He also likened gays to “vomit” and criticized female sports reporters.
Last year, Onyszko was fired from his former soccer team after being convicted of assaulting his ex-wife. He served three months in prison before signing with FC Midtjylland.
The team asked Onyszko to stop writing his memoir and focus on soccer, but the writing continued. FC Midtjylland’s Jens Ørgaard explained "We felt we did the right thing in the summer when we offered Arek Onyszko a new chance after his conviction. He was punished and like everyone else needed help to get back on his feet again. But lately he has abused our trust... despite warnings, he continued to work on the book project."
Ørgaard had no idea the book was being published, and as a result, has released Onyszko.
Outsports.com is reporting that Drew Gooden, a player for the Dallas Mavericks, used an anti-gay slur in referring to two Los Angeles Clippers fans after Saturday night’s game. Clippers fan, Chris Wylde, was sitting courtside with a friend and vocally enjoying the game. Afterwards, the two were souvenir shopping when Gooden walked by, pointed to Wylde and apparently said “there’s that fa**ot.” Next, he pointed to Wylde’s friend and said “there’s that other fa**ot.”
Wylde quickly e-mailed Mavericks’ coach Mark Cuban from his Blackberry to alert him to his player’s poor behavior. Cuban responded within minutes and replied "I appreciate you telling me. I will deal w drew." On Sunday, Cuban told Outsports.com that he would like to confirm the comment before taking further action.
The Kansas City Chiefs reached a settlement with running back Larry Johnson, with regard to his recent use of several anti-gay slurs. After Johnson's agent, Peter Schaffer, filed an appeal, the Chiefs cut his suspension in half. As a result, Johnson will be docked one week’s pay, losing $315,000. He will still miss the game against Jacksonville this weekend.
Schaffer commented to the New York Times that “Larry apologized. He learned from it and hopefully other people learned from it. My hope is that people learn that something positive can come out of this and that there are words that should not be used because they demean people.''
Along with a rise in the reporting of homophobic language and behavior, the media is also contributing to the positive representation of LGBT stories and people in sports.
In a deal that was finalized on Oct. 27, the Rickett’s family purchased the Chicago Cubs for $845 million. Laura Ricketts made history as the first openly LGBT Major League Baseball team owner. She also serves on the board of Lambda Legal, a legal organization that works for LGBT civil rights.
Ricketts spoke with The Windy City Times about her coming out experience: "I came out to my family I would say early to mid 30's. I think for a long time I wasn't really out to myself growing up in Omaha, Nebraska to a Catholic conservative family. It took me a while to come out to myself and not long after that I came out to them…they were all immediately supportive... I have been really really fortunate in that regard."
The Ricketts will now begin their quest to lead the Cubs into a World Series for the first time since 1908.
Finally, in an editorial, former professional hockey player Justin Bourne joined the ranks of Brendan Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita in speaking out for LGBT equality. Bourne voiced his concerns about the treatment of LGBT people to USA Today in his article “It's Time to End the use of Gay Slurs in Hockey.”
Bourne admits to using anti-gay slurs many times himself during his hockey career. In retrospect, he says that the prevalent anti-gay locker room atmosphere may cause many young, gay, talented players to “h[a]ng up their skates in favor of some lesser talent, strictly to find acceptance and peace of mind."
Instead, Bourne hopes that soon these young players will have an openly gay, hockey-playing role model. He acknowledges that this player will need to be strong because "the first openly gay NHL star will elicit stereotypical responses but hopefully the 100th is just a guy who will show up in my columns for being 'a completely overrated, third-line defensive specialist at best.'"
At the end of his article, Bourne is hopeful about positive changes and an LGBT-friendly locker room. "It's time to acknowledge we've been unfair to the gay community, that the culture of our sport can be misogynistic, homophobic and cruel. More important, it's time to make a stand that we want it to change. “
Hopefully other straight allies join Bourne's call to arms. It's a good first step, and the first of many that need to be taken in order to make locker rooms, playing fields and sporting venues a safe environment for LGBT athletes, coaches and fans.