Two cases surfaced this week revealing proof of a shift in attitudes toward LGBT individuals in the world of sports. Rutgers Athletic Director, Julie Hermann, openly revealed she was gay in her biography on Rutgers' official website. Meanwhile, the basketball coach of Saunders High School in Yonkers, New York, came out to his players and the nation by telling his inspirational testimony of coming out.
The culture of sports is going through a shift as stereotypes continue to be broken and challenged in athletics. Organizations and campaigns such as GO! Athletes and the GLSEN Sports Project are just two of the many endeavors starting to surface which tackle the intersection of LGBT identity and sports. By focusing on education and programming, they provide training and resources for coaches, athletic directors, parents, and other people involved in sports programming.
This year, the second LGBT Sports Summit was hosted by Nike. At the summit, leaders discussed projects and initiatives including "training of K-12 physical education teachers and high school coaches, starting in specific cities and states and spreading across the country, creation of a guide that gives sports media professionals correct terminology, background on the LGBT sports movement and key contacts for quotes and reaction, and adoption of a transgender-inclusion policy for college-based rec sports including club teams and intramural leagues," just to name a few as Outsports highlights. Jason Collins, first out gay active professional athlete, even made an appearance.
There's no question that attitudes are changing. Rutgers Athletic Director, Julie Hermann, acknowledged she was gay in her biography posted on the official website. Concluding Hermann's biography it states "Hermann and her partner Dr. Leslie Danehy are the proud parents of a seven-year-old son, Aidan."
Hermann told ESPN "I'm really blessed to have a wonderful family, and we're excited to become part of the Rutgers community."
Not only is Hermann one of only three female athletic directors at the Division I level, but she's also one of only a few known athletic directors to publicly come out. Hermann was hired on May 15, 2013 following former athletic director, Tim Pernetti, who resigned following the Mike Rice basketball coaching abuse allegations. Her family information was included when they recently updated biography information.
Progress is also being made at the high school level as Coach Anthony Nicodemo from Saunders High School in Yonkers came out to his team.
Nicodemo began his coaching career, volunteering shortly after he graduated high school. He's now been involved coaching at various levels for 16 years.
“What Jason Collins did was allow a conversation to be opened,” Nicodemo said in a conversation with the New York Times. “That day, I went into study hall, and we had a 45-minute conversation about it. ‘How would you feel if one of your teammates came out?’ It was really important stuff, and I was blown away by how they reacted.”
Nicodemo said he did not come out right away following that conversation, but it was definitely on his mind. After attending the Nike LGBT Sports Summit, it weighed heavy on his heart. Inspired by the recent coming out of professional basketball player, Jason Collins, Nicodemo tried to think about what his next step would be. This led him to come out to not only his friends, but also his team and administration at Saunders.
The reaction following Nicodemo's brave steps was extremely positive. After the discussion with his players, they tweeted statements such as "Saunders just became a stronger team" and "Saunders basketball isn't a team, it's a family."