Sports Op: Why American sports need to include the rainbow
Back in the 1970s, openly gay, San Francisco politician Harvey Milk once remarked, "all over the country, they're reading about me, and the story doesn't center on me being gay. It's just about a gay person who is doing his job." Fast forward to 2015, the LGBT community has grown to adopt it's own place among American mainstream. However, in the typically close-minded conservative world of sports that America lives in, the idea of a professional athlete identifying themselves as part of the LGBT community is stamped as being either taboo or a publicity stunt. The two most public coming out stories in the sports world are Jason Collins, former NBA basketball player who came out before entering his final season, and Michael Sam, current NFL free agent who came out before being drafted last season and has yet to play his first professional game.
When contrasting the coming out of Jason Collins and Michael Sam, Collins was a guy who played professional basketball for over a decade, came out and is now judged by who he was as a player not just his sexual orientation.
In contrast, Michael Sam came out before ever becoming a professional football player; therefore, he has been judged, unfairly, based off of him opening up about his sexual orientation, not Michael Sam as a player.
"Professional sports aren't enforcing their code of conducts, there is currently not one openly gay player in Major League Baseball. Only a couple of guys have come out after they have retired, and any idea of major league baseball, let alone any sport, promoting or enforcing LBGT inclusion is a joke," said Cyd Zeigler Co-founder of Outsports.com, the world's leading gay-sports publication.
As well as of being the co-founder of outsports.com, Zeigler is a contributor for the Huffington Post, Out Magazine, The Advocate, and Playboy and has appeared on CNN, ESPN as well as in Sport Illustrated and The New York Times.
"The issue is what are the coaches and managers doing on a day-to-day basis and that answer is nothing," Zeigler said.
Now as the time is changing, I'm proposing the idea that major American professional sports leagues create a day or week, solely focused on promoting the inclusion of the LGBT community across the world of sports.
"The problem is coaches and managers just don’t want to talk about it, they say that they just want to focus on their sport which clearly is not working," remarked Zeigler.
The idea of an LGBT inclusion day or week in professional sports would promote an inclusive and equitable workplace to help provide awareness and educational resources to regulate the leagues' codes of conducts.
The National Football League has Pink October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The National Basketball League has had teams wear Latin Night jerseys, Chinese New Years jerseys as well as St. Patrick's Day jerseys.
Major League Baseball created an annual baseball holiday on April 15th known as Jackie Robinson Day where every coach and player dons the number 42.
Teams have created jerseys for specific occasions, so why can not professional sports teams adopt the rainbow for one day a season to have LGBT Inclusion Night?
Major League Baseball's past of being an ultra-conservative sports league is fading away into the chronicles of history as they start to promote equal opportunities and treatment of all athletes.
To show MLB's changing views, the league should add to the festivities of their self-created holiday, Jackie Robinson Day; make the number 42 rainbow on all jerseys across the league. Jackie Robinson's legacy could expand to not just him being the man to have broken the color barrier in baseball, but as the face of equal rights for all athletes regardless of personal appearance or identification.
However, Zeigler was adverse to my my Jackie Robinson Day idea. "I’m actually against the idea of using the rainbow flags and rainbow jerseys because that is all that is being done. The education and seeking out those within the sports that are LGBT is what's truly important," said Zeigler.
"What is more important is for athletes to come out openly to the public because it will help connect with the youth in showing what it means to be an individual."
To all athletes that have to hide who they truly are and do not feel comfortable coming out, remember the words of Jackie Robinson, "I'm not concerned with you liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
The snowball effect of LGBT inclusion across sports is slowly picking up more momentum daily due to the work of people like Cyd Zeigler.
Hopefully in the near future, an athlete coming out about their sexual orientation will be viewed as acceptable in every locker room throughout the sports world.