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Transformative Hate – Changing Professional Sport

by David Langan

Professional Sport is often seen as the last bastion of homophobia.  Locker room antics, gender roles, endorsement politics and the economics of filling seats have created a corporate culture of co-dependent circular logic.  “Gay” is this thing that threatens the balance that professional sport has manufactured to make money.

Hate, in the form of homophobia, is a powerful thing. David K. Johnson’s “The Lavender Scare” reveals how the Republican party in the 1940’s and 50’s, searching for a galvanizing force, first directed hate towards the shadowy idea of “Communists” but realised their hook by targeting “Homosexuals”.  State sanctioned homophobia became the cornerstone of policies that forced the LGBT community out of the military, out of government jobs, and into the closet.

Sport has a long history with the State going all the way back to Plato.  In Plato, sport is a tool of the State to shape and mold model citizens along with participation in the military.  Sport continues to be an arm of the State even today through government funded bodies and athlete development programmes.  Is it any wonder then that the homophobic policies of the 1940’s and 50’s also found their way into professional sport.

Today’s professional sports have LGBT players, coaches, employees, and fans.  It’s easy to hate a thing, but it’s a lot harder to hate a person you know and care about.  The Burke family and Maple Leaf Entertainment are a great example of how knowing someone LGBT creates change.  The Canadian government is also pursuing change.  The evidence is easily found and can be seen throughout government funded agencies and NGO’s:

And, there has been amazing and welcome changes starting to emerge in pro sports.  Sean Avery’s (New York Rangers winger) endorsement of gay marriage in the US, followed by that of Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns point guard), Damian Goddard’s (on-air host) dismissal from Rogers Sportsnet after his unfortunate tweet, and Rick Welts (Phoenix Suns president and CEO) coming out are just a few examples of what will hopefully be a sustainable wave of change.  OutSport Toronto congratulates those pro athletes and networks / corporations who have taken the brave step to break from the old ranks and be true leaders, and encourages other pro athletes and organisations to do the same.

Sport that is inclusive and free of homophobia is the new reality, the new expectation.  Professional sport has to change – as does the LGBT community.  It’s time to get out – and play!