Texan Rob Redding, on being out… on the sidelines

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Out trainer Rob Redding

In nearly 10 years of this column, we have reported on dozens of LGBT athletes and coaches. We’ve interviewed gay fan groups and referees. We’ve talked about the Gay Games, and the (largely) straight Olympics. But we’ve never done a story on athletic trainers.

In the wide world of sports, trainers play a key role. They work intimately with athletes, diagnosing injuries and shepherding young men and women through physical therapy to get them back on the field. Trainers’ jobs are hands-on — literally — while their training room is often a safe haven, where athletes can talk freely about their greatest worries and deepest fears.

So, like other therapists (psychologists, etc.), many athletic trainers do not talk about themselves. Particularly if that talk would involve same-sex partners. That makes Rob Redding unusual. He’s the athletic trainer at Henderson State University. It’s a Division II school in small-town Arkansas … and he’s completely out.

In some ways, Redding is a typical trainer. He grew up two hours south of Houston, in Victoria, Texas, where football was king. He played “one day” in junior high, but found his calling because the high school athletic trainer was a great role model. Redding followed suit, and earned a scholarship to Texas A&M University.

He spent four years after graduation working at a high school, four more at a junior college, then another four at California Baptist University. He’s been at Henderson State — a “much better fit” — for the past nine years.

Redding loves his work. He’d thought about practicing medicine, but realized doctors see patients for just 15 or 20 minutes, in an office setting. “There are no relationships,” he notes. “But athletes really talk to trainers. They’re in a safe space. It’s personal, and very fulfilling.”

Redding first thought he might be gay in high school. He was sure in college. He never had overt experiences with homophobia — but, he says, “It was a typical Southern atmosphere. I heard the jokes and the negative things. They get imprinted on you.”

At California Baptist, he made a conscious decision to stay in the closet. It was not a happy time. When he moved to Henderson, he knew he could no longer hide … or lie. “If anyone asked, I promised myself I’d tell,” he says.

Redding started by calling out athletes for making anti-gay comments in the training room. Soon, he says, “people probably knew” he was gay.

Redding was assigned to the football and baseball teams. He had a great relationship with head football coach Scott Maxfield — with whom he had worked at a previous school — on and off the field. About five years ago, on one of their daily walks around the track, Redding came out to him.

Maxfield had one question: “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Once Redding had the backing of the head coach — and his wife, whom he told the same night — the rest of the process was easy. It culminated in a story he wrote for Outsports last month. He wrote: “I am at every practice and travel to every game with my teams. I am responsible for evaluating and treating injuries to my student-athletes. A lot of time this requires close physical interaction with them. While I am very professional with all my interactions, I have long worried about how the athlete would feel if the guy doing a deep-tissue massage on his hamstring was gay.”

Those fears were unfounded. Redding realized that being honest allowed him to do his job even better.

Henderson State University is a safe place, “administratively, and with students and coaches,” Redding says. “There are a bunch of good people here.”

He’s been uplifted not only by Henderson’s athletes, who really don’t care about their trainer’s sexuality, so long as he gets them back on the field quickly, but by the responses of strangers to his Outsports story. A closeted trainer in Texas thanked him for providing hope. A Pac-12 trainer who is out to a small group of people called Redding an inspiration for showing what it’s like to be fully out.

Redding does not have many professional role models. But at an Outsports “reunion meeting” in Chicago this summer, he heard stories from gay student-athletes, coaches, administrators, journalists … and even a few athletic trainers. That helped him understand the power of openness and honesty.

This year, Redding will speak about diversity at an NCAA Division II administrators’ meeting. He’ll tell his story, and hopes it will inspire others.

Athletic trainers shun the limelight. “We’re support staff,” Redding notes. “We’re just here to help. But if I can help reach folks who are in the closet, I’m happy to do that.”

— Dan Woog

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Olympian effort

Fair_Play_460x470_courtesy_Akashic_BooksAs we begin the Rio Games, we consider the progress of gays in sports

Conventional wisdom says that the locker room is the last closet. The sports world is seen as unwelcoming, anti-gay, left behind in a pathetic time warp while the rest of America hurtles forward, embracing LGBT issues, rights and people.

Conventional wisdom, says Cyd Zeigler, is wrong.

That’s the driving force behind his new book, Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports. A cofounder of Outsports — since 1999, the go-to website for news, photos and resources about gay athletics — Ziegler has written more coming-out stories than any American journalist.

For nearly two decades, Zeigler has chronicled the journeys of NBA and NFL players; college and high school athletes, and coaches, umpires, sportswriters. After hundreds of interviews and follow-ups, he’s convinced that the real story is just how accepting teammates, fans and even opponents are when a gay sports figure comes out.

In fact, Zeigler says, he cannot recall one instance in which negative reactions outweighed the positive ones.

Want proof? In the two years he spent writing Fair Play, Zeigler kept adding new stories and experiences. As soon as one edit was done, another famous athlete came out, another team or league took a big step forward, or another ally stood up for LGBT rights. Finally, Zeigler said, “Stop! Let’s print it!”

The book’s 12 chapters cover a wide swath of gay sports issues. Headings include “Young Athletes Are Why There Will Never Be a ‘Gay Jackie Robinson,’” “Straight Guys Look Too” and “Fallon Fox Is the Bravest Athlete in History.”

The first chapter is “John Amaechi and Tim Hardaway’s ‘Tipping Point’ Moment.” It’s about the NBA player’s coming-out experiences — specifically, what happened afterward. Former All-Star Tim Hardaway told a Miami radio audience that he “hated” gay people. Furthermore, he said, they should not be part of the locker room.

Reaction was swift — and anti-Hardaway. Zeigler calls it “the day the homophobes lost the culture war in sports.”

The American culture war continues, of course. It plays out in politics, most recently in North Carolina where legislators hastily passed a “bathroom bill” to address a non-existent problem with trans people.

michaelsam1In sports, Zeigler calls Michael Sam’s experience “chilling.” After coming out in college — and earning awards for his play — the University of Missouri football star was unable to catch on with any NFL team.

In a chapter titled “The Big Lie of the Big Five,” Zeigler tackles the prevailing belief of executives of the major sports leagues that any professional athlete who came out would create an unwelcome, unacceptable “distraction.”

“I’ve been to the Super Bowl,” Zeigler writes. “It’s a distracting mess. The media is ever-present. The host city is overrun with fans, celebrities, major corporations, and parties, from dawn to dusk. If a team’s front office cannot handle the attention a gay athlete might bring, it is woefully ill-equipped to win a world championship.”

Zeigler makes clear that sports owners and executives are out of step with the times. He counters every Michael Sam-non-signing story with many more counterintuitive ones. (Counterintuitive, that is, unless you’ve been paying attention — as he has — to what’s really going on in the sports world.)

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ZIegler’s Out magazine interview with former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin is considered a watershed in paving the way for LGBT understanding in mainstream team sports.

Zeigler’s favorite story might be retired Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin’s. The NFL Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champion came out as the brother of a transgender person or drag queen (he’s not sure). He supported same-sex marriage, and said he’d have no problem with a gay teammate.

Then — as part of Zeigler’s interview for a cover story with Out magazine — he enthusiastically posed shirtless.

Like the Amaechi and Hardaway moment, Zeigler calls the Irvin story a “game-changer.” So was a follow-up interview with the NFL Network, when Irvin connected his support for LGBT issues with his own experiences as an African American. “Equality for all means equality for all,” he said simply.

Zeigler admits that at times he himself has fallen into the trap of putting most athletes in boxes where they don’t belong. Writing Fair Play has helped him realize that much of the sports world is further along than many people realize.

He hopes it will reach a wide audience. Review copies were sent to mainstream media. They’ve been interested in it — further evidence that sportswriters also understand the importance of, and advances sweeping through, the LGBT sports world.

Meanwhile, the coming-out stories keep coming. Zeigler proudly recounts the story of a young athlete who read Fair Play the moment it appeared on Kindle. He showed it to his parents, to help them understand his experiences.

“I wish more people could see what I see,” Zeigler says. “There is nothing more powerful — for an athlete or teammates — than coming out.”

And no one has seen or described more great coming out stories than Cyd Zeigler.

—Dan Woog

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2016.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay Pride: A Texas teen’s inspirational coming out story

OF062716Growing up in Houston as the son of a multi-sport athlete, it felt natural for Jeremy Brener to play sports. He enjoyed them all, especially soccer and basketball. He coached younger kids in a recreational league. “I’ve just always been enamored with competition and athleticism,” the articulate, insightful high school senior says. “Sports feel safe and comfortable to me.”

Brener lives in a diverse neighborhood; he’s always been surrounded by different cultures, ideas and types of people.

“Maybe I was naïve,” he says. “To be honest, I didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant until I was 12 or 13.” He assumed that because all his friends had mothers and fathers, that “every relationship was between a man and a woman. “I never heard anything about gay stuff.”

But in the midst of junior high basketball season, Jeremy’s “gears started turning. It was a weird time.” He felt different from his friends. He began understanding his burgeoning sexuality. “That’s when life started for me,” Jeremy says. “I started to see other things. It scared me.”

He thought that being gay meant “acting feminine, doing feminine things.” But he did not fit there. He liked playing and watching sports.

Jeremy went online, reading and hearing other gay men’s stories. He saw many different examples of what it means to be gay, how to live life. He realized he could be gay, play sports and hang out with other guys who like him for who he is.

“There’s a whole spectrum of masculinity,” he recognized. Pretty heady stuff for a 14-year-old.

Through YouTube, Outsports, the Advocate magazine and websites like Gay Star News, Jeremy “really started to wake up. I knew this is who I’m supposed to be.”

Once he discovered he was gay, he thought that was the most important part of his personality. He wanted to tell everyone, to stop living a lie.

Now, he wishes he had not been so forthright. “Being gay is not the most important thing about me,” he says emphatically. “You can lead a truthful, honest life without telling the whole world.”

Friends slowly distanced themselves. His grades dropped. “I thought living my truth would be wonderful,” Jeremy explains. “That wasn’t the case.”

Then, in February 2013, Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers came out. He was the first professional male sports team athlete in North America to do so.

Jeremy was coming off a knee injury. Compounded by his friends’ reactions to his sexuality, he considered giving up soccer. But Rogers’ coming-out experience propelled Jeremy back in the game. He even changed his jersey to 14. That was Rogers’ number, and also Jeremy’s age.

Jason Collins and Michael Sam soon followed Rogers through the closet “out” door. “I realized there really are gay people everywhere,” Jeremy recalls. “And I saw that being gay is only part of a person. That’s why Outsports is great. It really debunks stereotypes.”

For his last two years in high school, Jeremy focused on just being himself. “People like me for me,” he says proudly.

So who is Jeremy Brener? “I’m an athlete, a basketball coach, a friend, a brother, a son. I like physics and business. I’m so much more than a gay teenager. I’m proud to be gay, but I’m also proud of every part of me.”

Jeremy is also a contributing writer for Outsports — the site that did so much to show him the world of gay athletics. Earlier this month, he wrote a story about Braeden Lange, the 13-year-old gay lacrosse player whose life was turned around by Andrew Goldstein, a former pro with his own positive tale. Braeden’s coming out at a young age, facing some negative reactions, and still emerging empowered and strong — it all resonated with Jeremy.

He wove together Braeden’s story — including the “Courage Game” organized by Goldstein, bringing together lacrosse players from around the country in a show of support for the youngster; an ESPN profile on the game and Braeden’s life, and the founding of Philadelphia’s Courage Home for homeless LGBT youth — with Jeremy’s own coming-out process. It was a compelling read.

The next day, a young reader contacted Jeremy. He was struggling, and alone. Soon, though, he came out – and felt great.

“That was so powerful,” Jeremy says. “If I weren’t gay, that kid wouldn’t have felt confident enough to do that.

“I’m gay for a reason,” Jeremy concludes. “Now I want to try to make a difference in the world.”

He doesn’t have to try. He already has.

— Dan Woog

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PSSA standings for the week

Pegasus Slowpitch Softball Association released its current standings for the current season in all three active divisions.

B Division: Dallas Woody’s X-Plosion B (4-1); Toxic (4-1); T.H.E. Round-Up (0-6).

C Division: Round-Up Synergy (10-2); JR.’s Texas Heat (10-2); Dallas Woody’s X-Plosion C (9-3); TMC Octane (7-4-1); Dallas Woody’s ((6-4-1); Dallas Radiation (5-8); Dallas Woody’s Demons (4-7); P-Cocks (3-8); Tim-Buck-2 Cat Squad (2-10); Aftershock (2-10).

D Division: DIVE! (10-1); Dallas Woody’s X-Plosion D (9-1); Dallas Woody’s Woodchucks (8-2); Shockwave (8-2-1); The Brick Titans (6-3); The Brick #Hashtags (7-4); Dallas Woody’s Saints (6-4-1); Winslow’s Winos (6-4-1); Dallas Eagle Talons ((5-4-1); JR.’s Dallas Devils (6-5); PowerStrokes (4-4-2); N-Motion (3-6); TomKatz (2-7-1); Round-Up Diesel (3-9); Dallas Tornados (0-7-2); Shockers (1-11); Tap House Semis (0-10-1).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Was Manti Te’o pretending to be straight so he’d get to play in the NFL?

Why would a star college football player make up a story about a relationship with an out-of-town girlfriend?

If you have a girlfriend, no one is trying to set you up. You don’t have to go on embarrassing dates and pretend to be straight. You don’t have to deal with the woman falling in love with you and end up hurting her.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o came in second in Heisman Trophy voting this year and is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. That is, unless he has to have real girlfriends to play football.

Te’o “met” Lennay Kukua in 2011. Last fall, she had a terrible car accident and then was diagnosed with leukemia. She was a student at Stanford.

Apparently, Te’o’s relationship with her was entirely on Twitter. He made up the stories about actually meeting her. The Twitter account is gone, but Te’o claims he knew nothing about the hoax.

But stories of the relationship and how he went on to play to make her proud after she “died” were part of most Notre Dame games last fall.

And now, OutSports is asking the question: Is Manti Te’o gay?

—  David Taffet

Mark Cuban wonders if he’s a homophobe

Cuban emphatically states his case.

Dan Devine over at the Ball Don’t Lie sports blog reported earlier today on Mark Cuban’s comment yesterday to “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons for a recording of the podcast The B.S. Report. Winding down the weekend’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Simmons and Cuban engaged in conversation of The KissCam which apparently took an awkward turn. From Ball Don’t Lie:

And then, as Carly Carioli of the Boston Phoenix wrote in a blog post accompanying an excellent feature story on the conference, “the atmosphere turned even weirder.”

… Cuban began telling the story of how he’d almost fired a Mavs employee for encouraging Dallas fans to do the wave. Cuban hates the wave. “I’d rather have 60 minutes of Kiss Cam,” he said, to laughs. Simmons has long been on record as being a fan of the Kiss Cam […] and piped up in favor of it. “I like the Kiss Cam,” Simmons said.

“That’s because you and your boyfriend are always on it,” Cuban spat.

Chances are, if you’ve read or listened to content created by Bill Simmons over the past seven years, you’ve caught wind of the fact that he’s married to a woman, and that the two of them have children. Not that those things would, or do, preclude a man from also liking men and/or having boyfriends, but, y’know, for the record, there’s been no public indication that Bill Simmons is gay.

Devine later goes on to criticize Cuban’s remark as adolescent. By all accounts, it appears The Boston Phoenix’s Carly Carioli was first on the scene with this post, labeling the remark homophobic. Gay sports site OutSports labeled it distasteful.

Cuban posted this today in Blog Maverick explaining his side. From Cuban:

I made a mistake in making the comment. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful. It wasn’t a comment on anyone’s sexuality. It was just me trying to be funny. It wasn’t. I quickly realized it and tried to fix it. I hoped at the time I didn’t offend anyone.

This blog post is not about trying to defend what I said. I’m not trying to defend my sense of humor. I’m not trying to convince you I’m not a homophobe. I’m not trying to justify anything at all.

I guess what I am doing is admitting that at some level I am prejudiced and that I recognize that I am.  There are a lot of things in my life that I need to improve at. This is one of them. Sometimes I make stupid throw away comments that I quickly realize are wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. It was a mistake and I realized it. I learned from it.

I appreciate the straighties rushing to the side of the LGBT community when the homophobia bell alarms. That’s a nice feeling. We appreciate it. Really. But is this particular instance, that big of a deal? I mean, we do have a sense of humor.

—  Rich Lopez

Coming out as a gay hockey fan

Via OutSports and the brilliantly named gay hockey blog Puck Buddies comes this charming account of a gay Dallas Stars fan’s recent trip to a game at the American Airlines Center with his boyfriend. An excerpt:

After our hockey game (he bought the tickets as a surprise), it got me thinking – will there ever be a time when I can go to a Stars game and not be afraid to kiss my boyfriend in between plays or periods? I think this is something every gay hockey fan has thought about at one point or another, and I’m curious to hear from other guys around here if they’ve been in the same position. 

I had an amazing time watching hockey with Jon and I can’t wait to go back and do it again and again and again, but wonder if I’ll feel more comfortable and a little less self-conscious the next time. The concern is Jon is my first REAL boyfriend, we live in Dallas, TX, and the typical hockey crowd mayyyyyy not be the most tolerant towards fans like us. I really do hope that one day we’ll be able to take in a game and not feel odd, judged or so rare. There’s no way we’re the only gay guys who go ape for the Stars. No way.

Saturday night was great. These past two months have been great, and Jon is great because he’s not only willing to put up with my hockey obsession but he encourages it as well. Oh yeah, the Stars beat the visiting Blue Jackets 4-2, and the night only got better after the final horn.

—  John Wright

Ex-TCU linebacker Vincent Pryor came out as gay to teammates before setting sack record in 1994

Seventeen years after setting a school sack record during a landmark victory over Texas Tech, ex-TCU linebacker Vincent Pryor has revealed that he came out as gay to his teammates before the game:

“I knew that at the end of this game I was going to be free. I can be who I am. I am a gay athlete who just so happens to play football. I had no regrets. Everyone knows I’m gay. … I was just at peace with myself.”

“He was a beast” on the field, said Marcus Allen, Pryor’s teammate and the team’s middle linebacker. “I do believe that once he came out of the closet, he did feel relieved. You did notice something different about him. He was always happy, he felt good about himself, he felt like didn’t have anything to hide.”

Pryor’s 4 ½ sacks still stand in the TCU record book (he shares it with David Spradlin from 1987) as do his 34 sack yards. But that’s not why Pryor’s story is worth telling. Rather, it’s his journey of acceptance as an openly gay man and athlete in our most macho sport.

Pryor now lives in Chicago with his partner, whom he met at TCU but didn’t start dating until four years after they graduated. Read the full story from Jim Buzinski at OutSports here. And watch Pryor’s video for the “It Gets Better” project below.

—  Rich Lopez

UTEP basketball player from Lancaster sorry for tweeting, ‘It is NOT cool to be gay!’

John Bohannon

The El Paso Times reports that basketball player John Bohannon, a Lancaster native who just completed his freshman season at UTEP, has apologized for tweeting, “It is NOT cool to be gay!” Ironically, Bohannon’s homophobic tweet reportedly was in response to the “Think Before You Speak” PSA that aired during the NBA playoffs, which featured two players speaking out against anti-gay language. From the EPT last Friday:

Thursday afternoon, Bohannon followed with “to those who were offended by my tweet a few days ago. Didn’t mean any disrespect by it as I do not judge anybody by their sexual preference.”

And he added, “And would hope you would not judge me by one tweet. Thank you.”

According to Bohannon’s Twitter feed, he later suggested that his original comment was “taken out of context.” And Jim Buzinski at OutSports isn’t satisfied with Bohannon’s apology:

I will judge him by that one tweet and his lame non-apology: John Bohannon is a moron and has obvious issues with gay people. And being gay is not a “preference,” it’s an orientation. Perhaps he’s simply not too bright: He was suspended one game this season, his first, for what his coach said was a  “lack of academic performance.”

—  John Wright

Dallas Mavericks' Drew Gooden may or may not have used the 'F' word

ESPN.com.
ESPN.com.

According to actor Chris Wylde, Drew Gooden, 90, from the Mavericks called him and his friend “faggots” Saturday night at their game in L.A. against the Clippers. Wylde and friend admitted to innocent heckling but did not expect this sort of retaliation. Outsports covered the story here. According to the article, Mavs owner Mark Cuban has taken the position of  dealing with it internally.

Wylde, who is not gay, e-mailed Cuban to complain. In it, he said “It’s not bad enough we (L.A. Clippers) have the worst record in the league, but to literally be hate crimed by a millionaire is repulsive.” Cuban later  told OutSports, “For the record, I heard their heckling during the game, some was funny, some not as innocent as they want to make it sound. That doesn’t excuse any homophobic commentary from anyone, but it does make me want to get confirmation.”

Wylde’s friend did not want to go on record about the incident. The Dallas Morning News reported that the NBA has not looked into the allegations. According to IMDB, Wylde is listed as a cast member in the CBS Web show, Heckle U. The plot summary on IMDB describes the show as “the story of a slacker Chance and his best friend Darrell who have the ability to change the course of a basketball game by heckling the opposing teams into submission. Chance is pushed to excel as a heckler and take their theatrics to the next level by his Uncle Lou.”

Hmmm. Maybe Wylde was just doing research.The Mavs play the Utah Jazz tonight at the AAC.изготовление рекламыпродвижение сайта читать

—  Rich Lopez