More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
Evan Lysacek Twitter Incident Another Example of Homophobia in Sports
@EvanLysacek Hey Evan, is Johnny Weir really a guy? hard to tell from the photos I've seen LOL
Lysacek's account, which Twitter has verified as official, responded:
@TahitianFantasy verdict is still out.
GLAAD would like to thank all the Weir supporters who alerted us to this offensive statement. Lysacek has since apologized for the comment - claiming that his verified account had been hacked.
Apologies to @JohnnyGWeir. Am taking measures to make sure something like this never happens again. The comment was insensitive, hurtful and offensive. Cannot apologize enough to Johnny and his fans.
(At the same time, someone who at one point ran an unverified ... and admittedly fake ... Evan Lysacek twitter feed, expressed his or her disappointment with the comment, saying "I am extremely disappointed in my actual person. No one should ever make a comment like that. I, fake Evan, promise to be better than that.")
Still, the incident points to the greater issue of homophobia in sports, among athletes and fans alike. Johnny Weir is no stranger to this issue, having been the target of an outrageous amount of offensive commentary earlier this year, as outlined here by GLAAD President Jarret Barrios.
But the problem is hardly limited to skating. Last week, former Major League Baseball player Brent Bowers was suspended for the season and forced to resign as manager of a Canadian Independent Baseball League team after he used anti-gay slurs against an openly-gay umpire.
It's also not limited to men. Recently, the only openly-lesbian coach in Division I women's college basketball talked about the fear among closeted coaches that their coming out would hurt efforts to recruit top talent.
Whether they realized it or not, what both Lysacek's fan and whoever reportedly responded in Lysacek's name may have thought was a cute jab at a rival, was actually rooted in the idea that anyone who does not adhere to rigid gender norms should be subject to ridicule. It's no more innocent than the vicious bullying that children who are (or are perceived to be) LGBT have to endure every day.
And it's no less childish.
But there are signs that change is on the horizon. Last month, a British poll found that the current generation of soccer fans would welcome openly gay players, with only seven percent saying that the sport has no place for gay people.
And Miami Herald sportswriter Greg Cote recently wrote that whoever ends up being the first male athlete in team sports to come out while still playing, "will have courage and sacrifice in him... with all the adulation and venom that might bring."