Last week, sports agent Todd Reynolds tweeted his opposition to gay marriage, specifically targeting hockey player Sean Avery’s “misguided” support of gay marriage. Todd Reynolds business partner and father, Don Reynolds, then went on to tell the National Post of Canada, “The majority, I think, of Canadians would say that they don’t agree with gay marriage — that man and woman were created to be married, not man and man or man and horse, you know?”
And yet, in spite of this bestiality reference, the Reynolds might be one of the best things to happen for cracking the generally accepted intolerance of gays in sports. Since the Reynolds’ multimedia anti-gay tirade, thousands of people have come out in support of gay rights. Sports in America is finally beginning to catch up to the rest of the world, where there are out gay athletes in many other Western countries.
It used to be that coming out in support of gay rights was pretty much seen as the same thing as being gay – at least it would open athletes up to an incredible amount of speculation. But now, as more and more sports figures are declaring their support for equality, the very fabric of what it means to be an athlete is changing.
No longer do you have to be a MAN or a WOMAN, but you can just be yourself. Sean Avery, long chastised for his good sense of style, can both be a top athlete and a fashionista. Brendan Burke, a student manager at Miami of Ohio, paved the way by coming out in a column on ESPN in 2009.
Grant Hill and Jared Dudley, of the Phoenix Suns, filmed public service commercials against the bullying of gay teens.
Scott Fujita, the Cleveland linebacker, supports gay rights, and Brendan Ayanbadejo, a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, is a vocal supporter for gay marriage in Maryland who likens the struggle for gay marriage to the push for inter-racial marriage in the 1960s (see above).
Overall, the sports landscape is changing, and it is becoming a more accepting and welcoming place for gays and their allies. Once we can crack the homophobic fabric that dictates what is considered masculine and appropriate – what I call the “no homo” barrier – we will have made true progress in accepting the normalcy and talent of gay and lesbian athletes around the country.
There is still a long way to come, but this is a great start. And if it wasn’t for Todd Reynolds taking to his company’s official Twitter account, the issue of homophobia in sports would not be getting the focused attention it has long needed.