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

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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

A Bra of size

Breast cancer survivor Leslie Ezelle teams with artist George Tobolowsky to create a traveling sculpture of hope and female empowerment

THINK PINK | A huge bra sculpture will lead a ‘pinking’ trend where people can donate to Susan G. Komen.

JENNY BLOCK  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Turning adversity into opportunity is the hallmark of a fighter. But using a giant bra do it? Well, that requires vision, commitment… and maybe a sense of humor.

“Cancer was not on my to-do list,” says Leslie Ezelle, HGTV Design Star contestant, former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and breast cancer survivor. But as anyone who has wrangled with the disease knows, cancer doesn’t care about to-do lists or anything else for that matter.

Ezelle, generally gregarious, withdrew when she got the diagnosis.

“I was a turd when I went through breast cancer, though people were fantastic the entire time,” she says. Ezelle resented it when people gave her pink things as signs of solidarity and support.

“Someone gave me a hat and I threw it like a little baby brat. I was sick of anything pink. I was having what I call my ‘titty-pity party.’ Serving bitter, party of one!”

After six surgeries and a healing process Ezelle says would have gone much more smoothly had she laid down and rested as advised, Ezelle was cured but still withdrawn. Her mom finally snapped her out of her haze, encouraging her to audition for Design Star.

She was eliminated before the finale, but that didn’t dampen her newfound love of life. After being kicked off the show, she started working with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to assuage some of her guilt about her bad patient behavior.

Enter a 14-foot high, 13-foot wide, 1950s-inspired metal bra sculpture, created by Ezelle and artist George Tobolowsky, titled “Ann-e Girl.” Named after the late sister of Ezelle’s partner, who succumbed to breast cancer, the piece, crafted from metal straps, will be hung on a metal branch signifying the “tree of life.” It will be the harbinger of “pinking” whatever location at which the bra appears, and help Ezelle in her goal to raise an additional $29,000 for Komen — in about a month.

“You can’t strap a good woman down is the theme,” Ezelle explains. “The bra will move. Wherever the bra goes, that is when the building goes pink, trailblazing through Dallas and leaving a wake of pink behind it.”

“Pinking” involves painting, lighting or decorating an area or building in pink to raise funds and awareness for the Komen fund. “Dallas is a little late to the party — pinking has been really successful in other cities,” Ezelle says.

The movement will begin with the pinking of the West Village on Pride Saturday at 5 p.m., when the sculpture will be unveiled. The event will include live performances, video presentations and tributes to the battle against breast cancer. One of the videos is of mothers with breast cancer — survivors and those who have lost the battle — and their children.

“For the music, I’ve changed some of the words to a Bob Dylan song that Adele does called ‘Make you Feel my Love,’” says Ezelle. “Now it’s basically the words a mom who died because of breast cancer would have said to her kids. Like my contact at Komen always says, ‘It’s the tearjerkers that really get people involved.’ This will be a tearjerker.”

Attendees will have the chance to register with Team Leslie for the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure on Oct. 15, and also to write something on a bra in honor of someone they love who is fighting or has lost the battle with breast cancer. The bras will be then be hung on the trees by Mi Cocina and the Magnolia moviehouse.

“Family and friends and Komen were there for me even when I didn’t want to play pink. As I’m working on this project, I’m realizing how lucky I am. I checked out emotionally but I didn’t have to totally check out. I didn’t have to die. Now that I’m drinking the pink, I get it. I understand why people are so into it. I see how great [being an activist] can make you feel and how infectious it really is.”

It’s hard to imagine where the idea for a massive, metal bra sculpture came from. But it was logical for Ezelle.

“My mom taught art and did this project with all of these bras made out of different materials,” she says. “When all of this came up, I immediately thought of that project.”

Four additional locations are already confirmed, but Ezelle hopes to add City Hall and Cowboys Stadium. The plan is to have businesses “buy” a strap on the bra for $5,000, which will enable them to have the bra on display at their location and have their company name and an additional inscription engraved on the piece.

Ezelle has already raised more than $30,000 but hopes that number will soar to $50,000 by the end of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. After that, she will make the sculpture available to other charities that support women’s causes. “It’s a sculpture that can do a lot of good things. We need to put her to work in other ways. Maybe with the bra straps I can do that,” she says.

Because if a bra is supposed to do anything, it’s provide support.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Rangers ‘It Gets Better’ petition gains steam

A while back we mentioned that online petitions had been launched at Change.org calling for both the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys to record “It Gets Better” videos.

At the time, the Rangers petition had only 124 signatures, but thanks in part to Equality Texas, which shared the link on Facebook earlier today, it’s now up to more than 1,700. (For those who are keeping track, that’s about 1,000 fewer than a recently-gone-viral petition at Change.org calling for Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie to wed. )

The Cowboys petition isn’t faring so well, languishing at only 57 signatures. Still, that’s better than the three people who’ve signed a petition — launched since our previous report — calling for the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to record an “It Gets Better” video. (It would help if the folks starting these petitions would at least include the team logo.) We were unable to find any petition related to the Dallas Stars.

Anyhow, we’ve put a message in to John Blake, the Rangers’ executive vice president of communications, to find out whether the Rangers are aware of the petition or plan to record an “It Gets Better” video.

Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Tampa Bay Rays will become the ninth Major League Baseball team to film an “It Gets Better” video later this month. (And, by the way, those teams include the one with the very best record in the league, my Philadelphia Phillies.)

—  John Wright

What does Bishop T.D. Jakes have to say about Michael Irvin’s Out magazine interview?

Bishop T.D. Jakes

I finally got around to reading the Out magazine piece about Michael Irvin, and here’s my only question: Did Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House megachurch in Dallas give Irvin his blessing on this? In the story, we learn that Irvin considers Jakes his “spiritual father” and that it was under Jakes’ counseling that Irvin finally came to terms with his brother’s sexual orientation – and his own homophobia. But Jakes isn’t exactly the type of pastor about whom you’d expect to hear that. He’s made some pretty bigoted statements over the years, calling homosexuality a “brokenness” and saying he wouldn’t hire a sexually active gay person. In fact, Jakes seems like exactly the type of person Irvin is referring to in this passage:

Irvin wants to eradicate homophobia in every corner of American society. He points to churches that have skewed the word of God to persecute those who don’t share their dogma; he shakes his head at the black culture he says has gone adrift in a sea of homophobia; and he said it’s time to end the second class–citizen status of gays in the eyes of the law.

“I don’t see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life. No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”

One one hand, Irvin considers Jakes his spirtiual father, but on the other, he says he doesn’t even want to know an African-American person who doesn’t support LGBT equality — which, based on past statements, would be a fairly accurate description of Jakes. I’m curious as to whether the author of the Out story, Cyd Zeigler, asked Irvin about this seeming incongruency, and if so, what Irvin said. Here’s one possible explanation: A few years back, Jakes’ son was arrested in a gay sex sting at Kiest Park in Dallas. Has that changed Jakes’ views about gay people, just as Irvin’s brother’s sexual orientation changed his? If so, is Jakes going to speak up about it like Irvin has? And if not, is Irvin working on Jakes? If Jakes, one of the most influential African-American pastors in the nation, were to come out in support of LGBT equality, it would be just as significant — if not more — than Irvin doing so. We’re all ears, bishop, all ears.

—  John Wright

Cowboys legend Michael Irvin talks with Out magazine about gay brother, being an LGBT ally

Former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin tells all to Out magazine in their sports issue profiling athletes who are also allies to the LGBT community. Cyd Zeigler provides an insightful look at Irvin as he came to learn that his brother was gay and the effect it had on his life and career. Irvin, being the huge persona that he is, is surprisingly poignant and reflective about his brother who passed in 2006, as well as about standing up for LGBT equality.

The issue also includes athletes Ben Cohen, Hudson Taylor, Mike Chabala and Nick Youngquest.

—  Rich Lopez

Petitions call for Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers to film ‘It Gets Better’ videos

Sam Maden, 12, is petitioning the Boston Red Sox to film an “It Gets Better” video.

The San Francisco Giants have become the first professional sports team to release an “It Gets Better” video. Watch it below. The Giants’ “It Gets Better” video was filmed partly in response to a petition from activist Sean Chapin that gathered more than 6,000 signatures.

Not surprisingly, Chapin’s petition is inspiring others, including 12-year-old Sam Maden, who’s petitioning the Boston Red Sox to make an “It Gets Better” video.

A quick search of Change.org today reveals that Maden’s “It Gets Better” petition is one of dozens launched in recent days and directed at pro sports teams, including both the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys.

“You guys are real heros to many people here in Texas and have a voice,” Sam Medal of Plano writes in a petition letter to the Rangers CEO, which would be Nolan Ryan. “Please use that voice to let lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth kids know that suicide is not an option, that over time ‘It Gets Better.’”

Thus far, only 124 people have signed Medal’s Rangers petition, but that’s much more than the 14 who’ve signed a petition directed to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and launched by Gabriel Gorre of Smithtown, N.Y.

We couldn’t find any petitions for the Stars or Mavericks, which is a little surprising given that the Mavs are currently in the NBA Finals and, based on owner Mark Cuban’s views, might be the local sports franchise that’s most likely to actually film an “It Gets Better” video.

If the Mavs go down 2-0 to the Heat on Thursday, they should probably film one as soon as they get back to Dallas just to remind themselves that “It Gets Better.”

Seriously, though, could someone please start a Mavs petition?

—  John Wright