The Year of the Outhlete

With Dallas Pride just over and the Gay Softball World Series still going strong, it’s difficult not to see thing about how influential the Year of the Outhlete has been in our community. Indeed, tomorrow’s edition of Dallas Voice is even out Sports Issue to mark the occasion. So let’s hoist the rainbow flag, drink a toast (with the alcohol of a gay-friendly sponsor) and honor the LGBT athletes who exemplify Pride.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets

The biggest — physically, anyway — is Jason Collins. The NBA player made us proud when he came out as the first active male pro sport athlete. Dozens of former teammates — and many opponents — made us just as proud when they tweeted sincere messages of congratulations the moment the news broke. The Brooklyn Nets made us proud when they signed him to a 10-day contract — not because he was gay, but because they needed a strong, experienced veteran to bring maturity to their locker room. Then the Nets liked him so much, they extended his contract. And NBA fans made us proud by making Jason Collins’ souvenir jersey the best-selling one in all of sports. Let’s go Nets!

Michael-SamAnother big story — physically, too — is, of course, Michael Sam. The University of Missouri star impressed us by coming out publicly a month before the NFL draft. (He’d been out to his team for a long time; they and their coaches made us proud by supporting him strongly, en route to a kick-ass season.) Mizzou fans stood out (and shattered East and West Coast stereotypes) with their fervent embrace of him. ESPN done good by showing him kissing his boyfriend after Sam’s name was called in the draft. And Sam made us very, very proud with that kiss.  It — and his tears of joy — were the exact same reactions as all the other macho, straight NFL draftees have. We are proud that all of America saw it, and prouder still that our own Dallas Cowboys saw fit to recruit him after the Rams cut him in training. Sam even turned up at Dallas’ Red Party last week.

When Robbie Rogers came out, soon after retiring from Major League Soccer, we were filled with pride. (He had a drink of water with the national team, too.) He made us even prouder when he returned to the sport, signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy. And soccer fans around North America — particularly those in the Cascadia region of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver — have made us tremendously proud by their heartfelt, vocal and very clever signs of support not just of Rogers, but of the entire “You Can Play”/gays-in sport movement. It takes a village — or, more appropriately, an entire stadium. And MLS has ’em.

Olympics Day 14 - DivingWe were proud when English Olympic diver Tom Daley came out … except, some of us were not proud because he didn’t exactly come out. He said, “Right now I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.” Then he said, “Of course, I still fancy girls.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being bisexual … but Daley didn’t use the “B” word either. (Eventually we learned that the “guy” is Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black.) Some members of the LGBT community are proud to have a top-level athlete like Daley in our midst; others wish he’d embrace his sexuality more fully; still others point to his non-disclosure disclosure as a sign that times are changing for the better. Labels don’t matter, they say; just be proud of who you are.

We are proud of Brittney Griner, for sure. One of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time plays on our team. But while part we’re in awe of her talent, her competitiveness and her honesty, we’re saddened by the way female athletes are marginalized. Her coming-out announcement should have been huge news, on par with those of Collins, Sam and Rogers. In her sport, she’s even bigger than they are. But it wasn’t. We’re not proud that female athletes — and lesbians — still have a long way to go.

Mercury Welcomes Brittney GrinerWe are also not proud that the Winter Olympics were held in Sochi earlier this year. Russia’s gay rights record is abysmal, and President Vladimir Putin didn’t even pretend to whitewash it. Instead, he warned gay visitors not to spread “gay propaganda.” We were not proud that governments and Olympic committees around the world did not raise more of a protest. We were not proud that none of the athletes, or their allies, raised a rainbow flag in protest. On the other hand, we should probably be proud that the Russians did not arrest, intimidate or even harass any LGBT folks. Small victories and all that.

But that was winter. With the summer, and Gay Pride Week in Dallas last week, Pride has been busting out all over. Yet with all we have to be proud of, the most Pride-worthy folks are the men and women (and boys and girls) who are out and proud as college and high school athletes. They don’t get nearly as much attention as the Jason Collinses, Michael Sams and Robbie Rogerses. But they are our true, and very prideful, champions.

— Dan Woog and Arnold Wayne Jones

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Anti-Sam protest fizzles at Cowboys Stadium

Pro-EqualityOf the more than 3.62 million members of the American Decency Association claimed by organizer Jack Burkman that planned to protest the Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday, exactly none showed up.

Supporters, however, did show up with signs that read, “Thank you Cowboys” and “Love beats hate.”

Even the American Decency Association disavowed Burkman. On its website, they wrote, “We are not the group in Texas using the name ‘American Decency’ headed by Jack Burkman that is being targeted as planning a protest against football player Michael Sam in Dallas this Sunday.”

American Decency doesn’t claim to like Sam. After disavowing Burkman, the man who proposed a bill to Congress to ban gay players in the NFL, American Decency claims to support “Biblical, traditional marriage.” You know, where marriage is between a man and as many women and concubines as he can afford, but very often has one special wife.

They complain about the kiss between Sam and his boyfriend — which they put in quotes — and then summarize, “In saying all of this, I make this point: We are not the ones behind the protest, but we also do not condone the lifestyle of Michael Sam.”

So since American Decency is against everything that Michael Sam stands for, but they weren’t behind the threatened protest, they ask that people stop emailing them hate mail.

But let’s end on a better note. Here’s a message from a church that doesn’t preach hate and vitriole:

Pro-Sam

 

 

—  David Taffet

Group plans ‘massive protest’ at Cowboys Stadium

o-GOSFORD-ANGLICAN-facebookThe American Decency Association announced that thousands of people will descend on the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington to protest the team’s hiring Michael Sam for its practice squad.

The organization, which opposes pornography and indecency in the media, originally planned to picket in St. Louis. The group’s plans changed when Sam was released by the Rams earlier this week and then signed with Cowboys. “We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled. We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country,” said Jack Burkman, a conservative lobbyist and head of American Decency, in a statement.

“Jerry Jones has betrayed American values, Christian values, and his own city’s values. The people of Dallas — and Christians all across this land — are about to make him pay a huge financial price. The Cowboys are no longer America’s team.”

Evidently the out gay Sam is contrary to God’s natural design for football watchers: straight men who drink beer and yell a lot.

They must have overlooked Jones’ provocative photos partying with younger women.

Or maybe they just alternate picketing schedules with the Westboro Baptist Church.

—  James Russell

Michael Sam in Dallas: Dale Hansen’s take

sam.Hansen

Michael Sam, left, and Dale Hansen

As soon as we heard this week that Michael Sam was possibly coming to Dallas, my editorial staff and I started working on getting contacts for a story. We contacted the Dallas Cowboys public relations department. We contacted Sam’s agents. We contacted friends who contacted friends who knew somebody who knew …….

Well, you get the picture.

Wednesday afternoon late, I heard back from Sam’s agent, who informed me that Sam isn’t doing any “one-on-one interviews” right now because he just wants to focus on playing football. And you know what, I understand that. This is a young man who maybe didn’t get chosen as early in the draft as he might have been because of the media hoopla over the fact that he’s openly gay. He might have lost out on a spot on the St. Louis Rams roster for the same.

Everybody has been focused on Michael Sam’s sexual orientation and not his abilities as a football player. I am sure it’s frustrating for him. I understand that. Of course, as the largest LGBT newsmagazine in Texas, Michael Sam playing for the Cowboys is a story Dallas Voice has to go after. Even if we understand his desire to focus on football. Hopefully we can do it in a reasonable way, and talk about something other than what it might be like in the showers for Sam and his teammates (way to go, ESPN).

Yesterday, WFAA Channel 8 sportscaster Dale Hansen posted a piece on his blog, Dale Hansen Unplugged, that puts the situation in very clear, simple-to-understand terms: “He simply wants a chance.”

Hansen, who already won the hearts and minds of LGBTs across the country in February with his commentary on how ridiculous it is for the NFL to not have a problem with players who beat up their girlfriends, kill a teammate in a drunk driving accident or “lie to police to cover up a murder,” but then turn around and have such a huge problem with an openly gay player.

Hansen’s opinion on Michael Sam surprised a lot of people, and earned him a place of honor at this year’s Black Tie Dinner coming up in November.

This week, Hansen posted another Hansen Unplugged blog on Sam: “So the Cowboys decide to sign Michael Sam (and do we really need to say ‘The NFL’s first openly gay player?’ Geez, I hate hearing that every time his name is mentioned … and I would think he does, too).”

Hansen admits that Michael Sam being openly gay is a “very big” story, if for no other reason than “the first of anything is a big story.” At the same time, Hansen says he is fed up with the idea that Sam is too much of a “distraction” to play pro football. The real question is can Sam play at a pro level. “He simply wants a chance. The Cowboys are giving him that chance — nothing more, nothing less,” Hansen says.

As for all the other uproar, Hansen cemented his position as a valuable LGBT ally with this closing statement: “But the critics who are concerned about the decline of America because a gay man plays football disgust me, and I would hope they disgust you, too.”

Thanks Dale Hansen. We couldn’t agree more.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Michael Sam signs with Cowboys practice squad

Out NFL recruit Michael Sam has signed with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.

He previously was with the St. Louis Rams.

Check with the Voice for more news about the historic pick.

 

—  James Russell

Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys would welcome a gay player

Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and arguably the most famous of the league’s 32 owners, told Wade Davis, a former defensive back who came out in 2012, that he and the Cowboys would welcome an openly gay player.

“When someone like him speaks out, the world changes,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports.

Davis spoke to NFL owners, coaches and general managers about sexual orientation in sports on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. Davis came out nine years after his last stint on an NFL roster ended and has already received positive feedback from meetings in New York with NFL officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell, over the past several months.

But there was a moment after his second presentation, this one to team owners on Tuesday morning, that confirmed to Davis just how much impact he had made in the quest to eliminate homophobia in the NFL.

But it wasn’t just Jones. It was coaches like John Fox of the Denver Broncos, who called Davis’ presentation the best he had ever seen at these annual meetings, and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said it is up to NFL owners to spearhead this culture change.

Respect in the workplace has been the overarching theme at the league’s annual meetings, from the fallout of the Miami Dolphins locker room bullying scandal to discussions about use of racial slurs to preparations for the league’s first openly gay player in former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who came out last month and is preparing for the draft.

“I think the most important thing is that it is a matter of respect,” Blank told USA TODAY Sports. “How we live is more important than what we say about it. The guidance that we’re getting from the league is outstanding, and the attention that it is getting is outstanding. But is up to us to make sure it becomes a living part of our culture, with more sensitivity, more awareness of the impact of what we’re saying.”

Davis said he was approached by numerous coaches and other team executives to visit with teams. He hasn’t set up any presentations yet, but Davis and Troy Vincent, the former Pro Bowl defensive back who was named the NFL’s vice present of football operations, will work to set up a program for speaking directly to players.

“I might share more of my personal stories with players, but I’m going to let them know that hey, we don’t want to be treated any differently, we just want to be part of the NFL family, too,” said Davis, who played two years for NFL Europe and participated in three NFL training camps.

Fox’s Broncos team could be among those Davis visits this year, though Fox won’t wait to share what he learned in Orlando once he returns to Denver.

“You need diversification in everything — even sexual orientation. It has to be in the conversation,” Fox said. “I think it was very profound. It was definitely eye-opening for me.”

—  Steve Ramos

WATCH: Out Nebraska football player tells his story on video

A decade before Michael Sam, Nebraska had out gay player Eric Lueshen. Watch his story.

 

—  Steve Ramos

Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan was supportive of out gay player at Nebraska

eric.0_standard_709.0

Eric Lueshen

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Callahan was very accepting of an out football player when he was head coach at the University of Nebraska, Outsports reported.

Eric Lueshen had a brief career as a kicker on the Nebraska football team before injury sidelined him in 2005. He told Nebraska radio station KNTK “The Ticket” that he was openly gay while playing and accepted by the team, if not all his coaches. He was so out he even took a male date to the student-athlete formal.

“My experience went from being a very scared and somewhat shy gay person on the team to a very welcomed and loved teammate of many,” Lueshen said.

Lueshen said that while Callahan was very accepting (and even shed a tear when Lueshen shared his story), not all the assistants were.

“Overall, I would have to say my experience was a positive thing, but you have to weigh the good with the bad. … I was just being myself,” he said.

He said he was nervous but was not going to lie if asked if he was gay. After being received uncomfortably by the team, his path to acceptance was paved by two popular teammates.

“Two of my really good friends on the team, Sean Hill and Corey McKeon, asked me at lunch one day, ‘We were just wondering if you were gay.’ I very honestly said, ‘Yes, is that a problem?’ They were like, ‘Oh no, that’s really cool. We all thought that you were, and we just wanted to know.’”

Basically, his teammates loved and embraced him while some coaches shunned him and sometimes said negative things. He did stress that other coaches were “very sweet to me,” including the head coach. His response was to work his ass off and prove that “I’m not just the pretty boy kicker, as my nickname became. I was there as a good athlete.” He redshirted in 2003 and had a injury that derailed his career in 2005 after he had the inside track to be the starting kicker. He now lives in Chicago.

Lueshen said that Michael Sam coming out helped spur him to share his story since he noted that he was out in 2003 in “one of the most conservative states in the country.” He had come out at 17 while a junior in high school.

The radio interview is in two parts: Part 1Part 2.

—  Steve Ramos

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant arrested for assaulting lesbian mother

Dez Bryant in his jail booking photo

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who announced two years ago that he doesn’t like the fact that his mother Angela is gay, was arrested for allegedly assaulting her over the weekend in DeSoto, The Dallas Morning News reports:

Bryant, 23, was arrested late Monday on a misdemeanor charge of assault.

Police say Bryant grabbed his mother by the wrist, slapped her across the face and pulled her hair during an argument Saturday. It was unclear what the argument was about.

News of the arrest came Monday, but police weren’t saying who Bryant was accused of attacking.

Bryant turned himself in to police on Monday and was released on $1,500 bond before sundown.

Two years ago, after he was drafted by the Cowboys, The Morning News published a column about Bryant in which he explained his reaction upon learning in high school that his mom is gay:

Mother and son don’t believe in secrets. Honesty, even if it hurts, is the foundation of their relationship.

That’s how they worked through Angela’s change in sexual preference. Dez was in high school when he learned his mother was no longer interested in romantic relationships with men.

“I didn’t like it. Really, I still don’t,” he said. “I dealt with it and now I’m comfortable with it.”

Angela broached the topic with him because she didn’t want her sexuality creating a wedge between them.

“It hurt me that it hurt him. I’m very happy about the relationship that we have,” Angela said. “I wasn’t close with my parents, so it’s important for me to be close with my kids.

In today’s edition, The DMN recounts some of Bryant’s other problems since he joined the Cowboys, including a trespass warning for sagging pants at NorthPark Center, a lawsuit from a jeweler who claimed he didn’t pay for merchandise, an altercation at a nightclub, and suspension of his driver’s license for excessive traffic tickets.

We have no idea whether the argument that led to the assault had anything to do with Angela’s sexual orientation. But given his other behavior and past statements, it would hardly be surprising.

—  John Wright

NFL’s Fujita makes video for marriage equality

There was a time when professional sports, at least male professional sports, were considered a bastion of homophobia and narrow-mindedness. But that reputation is slowly being chipped away at. The National Football Leagueand Major League Baseball passed policies prohibiting anti-gay discrimination just this year while Major League Soccer led the way by adopting such policies in 2004, and the National Hockey League followed suit in 2005.

Scott Fujita when he played for New Orleans

But those are “organizations” — big businesses, in fact, that are just following the lead of other big businesses which have known for years that such policies help you attract the best and the brightest employees. What about the individuals within pro sports? How do they feel?

Well, obviously, attitudes are changing at that level, too.

Today, the Human Rights Campaign released a new web ad promoting marriage equality that features NFL linebacker Scott Fujita, a straight man married for 12 years and a father of two. Fujita plays now for the Cleveland Browns. He was on the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in 2010, and in 2005 played for the Dallas Cowboys.

“I’ve been married for 12 years and I know that it is unfair to keep other loving and committed couples from getting married and protecting their families,” Fujita says in the ad, which you can watch below.

This isn’t the first time that Fujita has publicly supported LGBT rights. But it’s nice to know that he continues to be visible and vocal about his support. The fact is that hundreds of thousands — millions, even — of ordinary Americans — the exact people we need to reach with our message of equality — look up to pro athletes like Scott Fujita.  And when those athletes come up with a positive, affirming message about equality for everyone, at least some of those ordinary Americans are going to listen.

Now if we can just get a NASCAR driver to speak up for equality ……

—  admin