Ten Memorable LGBT Sports Moments of 2012

There have been so many of these lists in the previous weeks. I've read several on this topic alone, and the great thing is that they all agree that 2012 was a truly banner year - to use a sports metaphor - for the elevation of this conversation into the public consciousness. 

This happened thanks to the groundwork laid by the advocates who have been working towards LGBT inclusion for decades - people like Helen Carrol from NCLR, Pat Griffin from GLSEN's Changing the Game initiative, Robert Brigham, pioneering wrestler-turned-writer, and far too many others to name.
 
While those names have remained at the forefront of the conversation, they have been joined in the last several years by a new generation of advocates.
 
OutSports founders Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinsky, Athlete Ally's Hudson Taylor, You Can Play creator Patrick Burke, basketball player and inspiring lecturer Kye Allums, Pat's colleagues Nevin Caple from Changing the Game, British rugby champ StandUp Foundation founder Ben Cohen, GO! Athletes Executive Director Anna Aagenes, and again - far too many others to name. 
 
These LGBT advocates have also been joined by the voices of LGBT people and allies from within the world of professional sports, like Chris Kluwe, Brendan Ayanbadejo, Rick Welts, Steve Buckley, Jared Max, and you know what, you guys didn't come here to read a bunch of text. 
 
This is my list of what I consider to have been the ten most memorable LGBT sports moments of 2012, in what I think is the order in which they occurred, except at the very end.
 
You Can Play Project Launches
 
 
An extraordinary gathering of players from the NHL participated in "The Faceoff" - the first video released by the You Can Play Project, led by Patrick Burke. Never before had so many active professional athletes lent their voices to a singular vision of LGBT inclusion. This sent an incredibly powerful message - not just to the LGBT community, but to fellow pro athletes. 
 
 
MLS Suspends Colin Clark
 
 
In the first of a handful of incidents this year of athletes using anti-gay language, Major League Soccer became the first pro sports league to suspend a player solely for using anti-gay language. More importantly however, Clark himself recognized the impact that anti-gay slurs can have on others - saying "I intend to never use those words again in any context. There is no excuse for them. What I said does not properly represent who I am or what I believe. I made a mistake that I truly regret."
 
Retired NFL Player Wade Davis Comes Out
 
 
Davis, a cornerback who played with Tennessee Titans, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Washington Redskins, spoke first with Outsports and SB Nation about being a gay athlete. In the months since, Davis has been a powerful voice for LGBT inclusion - and has given encouragement to LGBT athletes around the world.

Nike Hosts First-Ever LGBT Sports Summit
 
 
This was an incredible experience to have been a part of - sitting at the same table (or tables) with all the advocates mentioned above and others like GLSEN's Robert McGarry, Campus Pride's Shane Windmeyer, and I'm going to get in trouble if I keep naming names because inevitably I'll miss one, and allow me to simply say that every single person at the summit, without exception, added significantly to the discussion, and is a key part of moving our culture forward.
 
GLAAD and Athlete Ally Train NBA Rookies
 
 
GLAAD teamed up with Athlete Ally this year to offer ally trainings to all professional sports leagues. The NBA was the first to take us up on the offer in August, when Hudson Taylor and I filmed a presentation that was shown to the NBA's rookie classes of 2012 and 2011. 
 
Yunel Escobar Suspended for Writing Anti-Gay Slur on Eye-Black
 
 
Just like with Colin Clark, the importance of this event was not the suspension Escobar received, it was the conversation that followed. Toronto's sports media made a powerful statement, almost uniformly rallying behind the city's LGBT community. The Blue Jays donated Escobar's salary for the three games he was suspended to GLAAD's and YCP's efforts to make sports a safer space for 
LGBT fans and athletes. And Escobar himself - after his initial press conference, during which he still didn't quite get the importance of using that slur - seems to now truly understand the influence he has as a professional athlete, and has expressed support for the LGBT community.
 
World Class Boxer Orlando Cruz Comes Out
 
 
Easily the highest-profile male athlete to have come out while still competing, Olympian featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz instantly became a role model for millions this year. He told USA Today "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man."
 
All Major American Pro Sports Leagues Go Purple for #SpiritDay
 
 
The NBA / WNBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS and NASCAR all took a stand against bullying and showed their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth by going purple on Spirit Day. The six leagues sent messages on October 19th to bullied LGBT youth via social media - with MLB even turning the backgrounds of every team's logo purple.
 
Participation in Spirit Day was hardly limited to the leagues - basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal was a Spirit Day Ambassador. And perhaps most powerfully, Vancouver's Rogers Arena, home of the NHL's Canucks, turned its entire building purple. The Vancouver area was still in shock over the suicide death of bullied teen Amanda Todd, and this was a powerful stand in support of bullied young people everywhere. 
 
Media Focuses on Trans College Basketball Player Gabby Ludwig
 
 
Much of the press around this, sadly, came as a result of two local ESPN hosts in Washington DC getting suspended after having one of the most awful and dehumanizing "discussions" I've ever heard on the subject.  But Gabby herself, simply by playing the sport she loves, has become an inspiration to people worldwide. And her team and school have provided hundreds of other schools and sports programs with a model example of how to stand by an LGBT athlete 110%.
 
For so long, sports has been simply accepted by our culture at large as a "safe space" (pardon the misuse of the expression) for casual homophobia. By definition, that meant that the world of sports was an unsafe space for LGBT people and their allies. This year, sports fans around the country and around the world saw that this wall of exclusion was well on its way to coming down. I am extremely proud and grateful that GLAAD has been able to play some role in all of these moments. 
 
...
 

Allright, you got me. I only had nine. So I'm going to cheat here, and end with one that was incredibly important to me on a personal level as a sports fan - but this one won't really fit with the others.

Also, you might not want to continue if you're a Rangers or Angels fan.

...

...

(are they gone?)

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2012 Oakland Athletics win American League West

Ending on a totally personal note - my daughter was born in December, and I spent many a night this Spring, Summer, and early Autumn parked in front of the TV with her, trying to get her to fall asleep. Or more accurately, fall back asleep. So I'd like to personally thank the Oakland A's, whom I've been following since the days of Dave Stewart and Terry Steinbach, for giving me the most fun I've ever had watching a baseball season unfold. 

HEY WAIT. 

The A's also made an It Gets Better video this year.

So there's your connection.

Hope all of you had, and/or are having, the happiest of holiday seasons, and I personally wish each and every one of you a wonderful new year. Even Rangers and Angels fans. :)

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