Homophobia in Sports

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The Blame for Qatar

The Blame for Qatar

Kelly McGurk

The scandal around the corruption of FIFA has focused on the upcoming World Cup to be hosted in Qatar in 2022. Many have questioned the governing body of soccer’s decision to host a soccer tournament in the summer of an extremely hot country. Other issues with the 2022 World Cup come from the host countries treatment of migrant workers. Not only has the international community largely ignored the death of migrant workers, there has been no accountability on the end of FIFA. The situation in Qatar speaks to a larger issue with the world prioritizing sporting events over societal needs, such as worker’s rights. The world watches and enjoys these sporting events at the expense of those, like the Qatari workers, who had to suffer in order to make the event happen. FIFA and the international community have not adequately addressed the human rights violations in Qatar, but recently major sponsors of the World Cup have voiced concern over the conditions in Qatar. More of this pressure and action must be taken. For each game played, over 60 workers will have died. The lack of media coverage on this issues is an example of the work that needs to be done to draw attention to these human rights violations.

Qatar has a population of 2 million and only 10% are Qatari nationals. This means the country has a problem with and facilitated the trafficking and forced labor of workers. Low-paid workers come from countries in Asia and Africa. These workers have been subject to abuse, exploitation, and low wages. In reaction to the negative international reaction to the human rights violations against the construction workers for the stadiums used in the world cup, the Qatari government passed reforms that would protect these workers rights. These proposed reforms have done little to help workers and have not given protection for human trafficking, forced labor, and migrant domestic workers. The case against Qatar includes testimony from workers, who stated that their employers fail to pay their wages and they are prohibited from unionizing. Most workers are forced to live in cramped conditions and the government has done little to fix this. Workers are forced to reside in places provided by employers and obtain certain documentation if they wish to no longer work for the employer. It has been reported that authorities use indiscriminate travel bans to keep workers in Qatar. The reforms in 2014, kept the previous system because it required that workers stay with the employers for five years. Qatar was supposed to build housing for 200,000 workers but there was no follow through on these plans by the government. The International Trades Union Confederation published a report in 2013 outlining the issues with Qatar and the construction of the stadiums for the World Cup. The ITUC counted the deaths reported by Nepal and India, who account for 60% of the migrant workers in Qatar. They reported almost 1,300 deaths in 2011, 2012, and 2013. DLA Piper, a law firm contracted by the Qatari government, found that the death toll had reached 1,800 a year. These deaths included migrant workers from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. The issue in Qatar is not just the construction of the stadiums, but the infrastructure required to host such a large sporting event. Hosting a World Cup requires hotels, public transportation, roads, and airports. The infrastructure needs of Qatar are putting a large strain on the workers. The deaths of migrant workers are not completely from the stadiums, but rather from the other needs from hosting such a large sporting event. Qatar is the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. Qatar has the funds to build and host the World Cup and should be doing better by its workers. Women and children have suffered as well. It is common for women to be the victims of rape, imprisonment, and suffer abuse.

Qatar cannot be solely blamed for the issues around the 2022 World Cup. The international community has stood by while workers in Qatar have been stripped of their basic freedom and rights. Even with the issues and corruption in Qatar, the only real talk regarding to the World Cup is moving the games to winter months to avoid the problem of extreme heat. FIFA has undergone scrutiny about how Qatar received the World Cup, but there is no accountability with the governing body of soccer and Qatari government. There is a disconnect between sports as a business and a profit center and sports as a uniting passion. Sports functions as a business and in a capitalist society it must function as such, but you cannot use this to justify turning a blind eye to the crisis in Qatar. The Word Cup is an event that attracts the biggest soccer fans in the world and unites them for the love of the game, but at what expense does this come at. Will you be watching your team play in the 2022 World Cup on the backs of the Qatari migrant workers? These workers died and suffered and the world could care less. Turn on ESPN right now and I am willing to bet that there is little to no coverage about the situation in Qatar. These workers pay the price for the world’s enjoyment and we must be accountable that we are partly to blame if we stand idly by and watch it happen. This issue goes past the workers in Qatar and can extend to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The Brazilian economy is suffering under the Olympic spending. Poverty rates in Brazil are sky rocketing, while state of the art stadiums are being constructed for athletes and our enjoyment. FIFA must act by demanding a change in the Qatari system and the end to the abuses of international rights granted to the migrant workers. The International community must come together to demand that Qatar and FIFA acts or they will not participate in the World Cup. International rights of workers must become a central issue and we cannot continue to ignore it for the entertainment of sports.

Opioid Abuse in the NFL, a Short-Term plan with Devastating Results

Dealing with pain in the NFL has been a topic long discussed, with little action in terms of advancing medicine within the sport to treat the horrors that go along with playing professional football. Athletes kill themselves on the gridiron for a paycheck and glory, but at what cost?

Opioid addiction has become a major problem in the National Football League, but has not been addressed properly. It’s an issue that has long plagued former NFL’ers, but has been pushed to the side in order to address more prevalent topics, such as concussions or the asinine “DeflateGate.”

Let’s first look at former Miami Dolphins quarterback Ray Lucas. In a story with CBS News, Lucas said that he was “taking up to 800 prescription opioid pain medications per month at his worst.” Lucas described his addiction as so bad that he would “pop a handful of pills before bed hoping he wouldn’t wake up.”

Unfortunately, Lucas’ story isn’t an isolated case. In a study done by Outside the Lines, it was reported that 52% of retired players said that they took prescription pain medication during their playing time, and that 71% of those said that they misused the drugs back then. The scarier part is that 15% of those users admitted to misusing opioids within the past 30 days. While the painkillers were meant to treat the extreme agony that athletes were suffering from during their playing days, the allure of these pain pills has contributed to a permanent addiction in many former athletes.

While opioid addiction is a huge issue going on in all of the United States right now, Linda Cottler, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, reported that “[former players] are three times as likely as men their age in the general population to be misusing prescription opioids right now.” In another case featuring Dan Johnson, a former tight end for the Miami Dolphins, Johnson reported that he was taking nearly 1,000 painkillers a month to overcome the pain from his playing days.

So how do we stop this massive problem? Well, it’s simply not that easy. One of the leading candidates to replace opioids in the NFL is medical marijuana. Unfortunately for NFL players, marijuana is still listed as a banned substance. Meaning, if you test positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, you face possible suspension or the risk of being placed in the NFL’s drug abuse program for the rest of your career.

Despite, the NFL placing marijuana on its banned substance list, according to former star running back Jamal Anderson, the devil’s lettuce is still used abundantly in the league. In an interview with sportsgrid.com, Anderson said that he believes that 40 to 50% of the league used it when he played, and assumed that the number now hovers around 60% in the current day and age. But it’s not just Anderson preaching for players to be able to light up a doobie after practice to ease the pain of collisions. Former NFL tight end Nate Jackson said that he used to experiment with prescription painkillers to ease his pain, but that medical marijuana was the most effective for him. In an interview with The Guardian, Jackson stated, “I feel like I can speak about this because I’ve tried everything. I’ve shot up HGH, done the injections, tried the pills, tried marijuana. It’s not that I’m this big marijuana guy, it just helped my body the most.”

Many former and current NFL players have preached for a system similar to the NHL’s drug policy. The NHL does not list marijuana as one of its banned substances, and only tests for the drug to monitor use. Unless a player has failed multiple tests, in which case the league will step in and try and assist the player, the NHL takes a hands off approach and lets players treat their bodies in an alternative, natural fashion.

The NFL is still a long way from finding an alternative to opioid use to treat the pain that comes with the sport, but is open to trying new things. Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed that he would be open to seeing further research and testing done on the drug, saying in an interview with The Guardian that, “We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that.” Goodell did include a caveat to his statement, though, saying “our medical experts are not saying that right now.” Still, the NFL has increased its threshold for a positive marijuana test from 15 ng/ml of THC in blood/urine tests to 35 ng/ml. Unfortunately for NFL’ers, that number is still way below the 150 ng/ml limit as set by the World Anti-Doping Agency, who controls testing for the Olympic games.

Opioid addiction is just as important of an issue as concussions have become in the NFL. Without alternative medicines and treatment techniques, the league could not only have a CTE issue on their hands, but a suicide scandal, with high rates of suicide associated with opioid abuse. For now, we have to hope the NFL will see the light at the end of the tunnel with non-traditional pain treatment techniques. But maybe one day, when our children or children’s children have the opportunity to play in the NFL, the league will be rid of its blatant opioid problem, and be a safer place for all of its players.

 

Coed Sports’ Deserved Place in the United States

Gender divisions in sports have been established and are currently being used today in America. Despite this fact there are still coed sports teams and leagues that exist and welcome the cooperation between both. Examples of these include coed volleyball leagues, baseball and softball leagues, racquetball, touch or flag football, floor and ice hockey, and team tennis. Each coed team or league provides numerous benefits to both genders. These include the elimination of stereotypes, improved respect, and providing opportunities.  However, the elimination of men and women’s sports should not take place. Americans should have the choice to decide if they want to participate in coed sports. To eliminate coed sports entirely will only increase gender stereotypes and the divisions between both genders. Coed sports have their place in America and should be allowed to continue.

Denying the right to coed sports in America would take away existing benefits that both the youth and adults enjoy. The first benefit of this dynamic is the elimination of gender stereotypes. This type of stereotype does not only exist in sports but in American society as well. To eliminate them first in sports would be an excellent step forward for both genders. One example of these stereotypes includes the idea that women are always physically and mentally weaker than men in competitive sports. This has been proven wrong in not just coed sports but in women’s sports as well. Coed sports however dismantle these beliefs firsthand by allowing men and women to play alongside and against each other.

Furthermore, an example of this has been seen in the sport of football. By allowing women to play alongside men competitively in a sport that is still seen as masculine, is quite groundbreaking for the effort against gender stereotypes. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, “there were more than 1,500 girls playing on boys’ football teams that year, and the trend was growing with a 17 percent uptick since 2009.” For a sport that has remained male dominated this not only tackles stereotypes but presents opportunities to the females who previously could not participate. There are women’s football teams and leagues that exist but are very few. To allow entry into men’s leagues and teams allows females to have greater accessibility. The presence of women in football however has been seldom in the collegiate and professional levels. Youth leagues to high school teams have been the major recipients of female players but in the future this could change. By showing that football is a sport that both men and women can play through the implementation of coed sports can change this dynamic.

In addition, the concept of respect can be displayed through coed sports. According to author Jeffrey Rhoads, “Allowing girls to compete alongside and against boys enhances their view of themselves and makes them more resilient.” Also, it shows males that females are capable of competing alongside them and gender should not play a role in deciding this. Coed youth sports allow these ideas to be embraced at a young age which also has great benefits. Child psychologist Laura E. Berk states that “between ages 9 and 11 kids begin to develop gender stereotypes.” By involving kids in coed sports at an early age provides them the opportunity to avoid these beliefs before they have a chance to grow.

Despite these benefits and opportunities, not all agree with the idea of coed sports. Opposition has been given over the years for various reasons. One of the most prominent is that physical interaction between females and males during play can be deemed sexual. This is naive thinking and according to author Jean O’Reilly, “sex research consistently shows that physical familiarity usually de-eroticizes male-female relations” (O’Reilly 70). Also, another criticism is that females are more likely to be injured while playing. Despite the validity of these claims, it should be the athlete’s decision on whether or not they want to face the challenge. Male athletes in leagues such as the NFL and NHL are currently sacrificing their bodies and facing the dangers of concussions every time they play. Females should be given that same choice.

Alternatively, the elimination of women and men’s sports should not take place. The divisions between the two in the collegiate and professional levels offer athletes who are not elite or above average the chance to compete. For example, in sports such as track & field and basketball, if the divisions are taken away it will combine the elite of the two teams together. For those who are not the stars of their rosters they will most likely lose their spot. Also, not only will spots be lost but records and fans will be lost as well. Records for the two separate teams will be lost or forgotten since the new coed team places them in irrelevancy. Also, for the fans who cheer for their women or men’s teams it could lead to unrest if they lose them. The coed teams and leagues that are currently in place should be allowed to continue, but to force it upon every sport will result in confusion and unrest.

In conclusion, the choice of coed sports should be allowed to continue in the United States. By providing benefits such as improved respect, elimination of gender stereotypes, and the increased number of opportunities it leads to a great experience for everyone. For football, it will give females more accessibility and can lead to more opportunities in the collegiate and professional levels. However, the existence of men’s and women’s sports should not end since it will limit the opportunities for those who are not elite, records will be forgotten, and fans will become upset at the removal of their teams. The coed sports that currently exist should continue and the sports that do not have women’s teams should become coed. If the opposition is put to rest and coed sports are allowed to thrive, it will not only be an achievement for sports but society as a whole.

Concussions and the NFL

What is a concussion? It can be defined as an injury-induced change in mental function or awareness level that can occur without obvious damage to brain structures, lasts less than 6 hours and may cause a loss of consciousness.

Over the past two seasons, 306 NFL players have suffered over 323 concussions. Of all the NFL players who are being sidelined to concussions, the burden has come mainly to wide receivers and cornerbacks who have calculated more concussions than any other position. The most compelling issue with concussions and the NFL is that there are not enough protective measures to keep athletes safe.  Data from the American Academy of Neurology has shown that while every head injury is different, an athlete is most at-risk of a re-occurring injury within the first ten days after the initial injury.  Often times, a player will sustain a head injury in the first half of the game only to return to play after half time.  Obviously, this puts an athlete at even greater risk of sustaining a more serious injury, as well as increasing the risk of having complications later in life.  Within the first month of the NFL season, 15 different players have been put on the injured list for concussions. Of these 15 players, 12 have returned to the field after only a week of recovery.  The most concerning part about head related injury, especially when an athlete returns to soon, is the risk for serious complications in life after football.

Long Term Affects

With years of research and a lot of skepticism, the NFL has recently acknowledged the link between concussions and what is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players.  Jeff Miller, who is the NFLs senior VP for health and safety, confirmed that football related head trauma can lead to this new found disease.  A prominent doctor at Boston University also confirmed this saying that she diagnosed CTE in 90 out of 94 former NFL players that she has examined.

What is CTE?

CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma, resulting from repetitive hits to the head, triggers progressive degeneration of brain tissue as well as the build up of a strange protein called tau. The symptoms of this disease are memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and dementia later on.

The Controversy

Starting in the early 2000s, the NFL would not acknowledge the existence of CTE or the link between the disease and injuries sustained by football players. For fear of losing income, the NFL downplayed the disease, subsequently increasing the number of football players sustaining multiple injuries to the head.  Despite the staggering amount of research and evidence suggesting otherwise, in 2005 the NFL stated that “no player had ever suffered chronic brain damage as a result of repeat concussions” as well as stating that “Professional football players do not sustain frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis”.  One can question these statements by merely looking at the numbers. In the same year, NFL players had sustained 271 concussions, which was a 31.6% increase from the year before. They then repealed these statements saying that “it is quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long term problems”. Because of the negligence of the NFL to keep their players safe, and to keep them aware of the risks of the sport, over 5,000 players decided to sue the league for the head injuries that they had sustained. After almost a decade of denial and skeptism, the NFL is finally acknowledging the link between football related head injuries and CTE, but the question now is, should the NFL compensate them?

The Lawsuit

The decision for over 5,000 current and former NFL players to sue the league caused a lot of controversy. While the NFL tried to downplay the severity of neurological problems like CTE saying that the evidence was inflated and that “the actuaries’ models do not reflect a prediction of the numbers of players who will suffer injuries” the court was still able to grant a claim based on the staggering evidence given. After football injuries, players had a 0.8 percent of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. The average person has only a 0.1 percent chance. The gap between players and people in general widens more and more with increasing age. Research acquired also shows that 28 percent of all NFL players will develop a long tern brain related injury or disease.  Based on this evidence, they came to the conclusion to establish a pool od $675 million dollars to cover head related injuries and disease caused by repetitive injuries occurring during their NFL football careers. While this is a substantial amount of money, some still believe that it is not enough to compensate for the medical care needed for head trauma. Eventually, the NFL agreed to pay a total of $800 million in compensation. Another term in the lawsuit is the sliding scale for compensation based on the age of the player in question along with the number of years that the athlete has participated. With this system, players who have participated for ten years would receive more than someone who competed for 5.  So many players are being affected by long term neurological problems that it is estimated that 90 percent of all retired NFL players will file for a claim. Christopher Seeger, one of the head lawyers stated, “This report paints a startling picture of how prevalent neurocognitive diseases are among retired N.F.L. players, and underscores why class members should immediately register for this settlement’s benefits,”

Clearly the efforts of the NFL to brush these issues under the rug along with their negligence to address the link between repetitive blows to the head and neurological diseases such as CTE have caused a lot of controversy.  Because of their inability to inform players about these types of issues, they are left in the dark about the risks of the game and are now facing the consequence.

Why is this relevant in society?

Since the NFL is no longer denying the link between head injuries occurring in football and long term brain issues, parents will be more hesitant to let their kids play football. One woman who’s son suffered from CTE is starting a petition to stop children that are younger than 14 from playing in youth football leagues. She states “I didn’t sign my son up to get a brain disease”. These kids of feelings can spread among parents for the fear of their young ones having long term effects from participating in youth and high school football. Knowing what we know now about concussions and diseases like CTE parents have to wonder, is it worth the risk?

 

Cites:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/the-nfls-concussion-problem-still-has-not-gone-away/http://www.bu.edu/cte/about/what-is-cte/http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/sports/football/actuarial-reports-in-nfl-concussion-deal-are-released.html?_r=0http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/20/opinions/jones-football-kids-concussions/

 

Homosexuality in Sports

Sports epitomize manliness. The world of professional sports hones masculinity through power, strength, and obscene amounts of testosterone. With this comes the inherent assumption that these men, who spend their days in sports arenas and fields across world, are straight. Like any other profession or world, generalizations about sexuality are never true. Thus, the world of sports is home to plenty of homosexuals, but is largely unaccepting toward homosexuality. Bill Velasco writes this perfectly, “mainstream sport media (primarily in the US often characterizes male professional athletes as being avatars of idealized masculine traits such as aggressiveness, power, assertiveness, and emphatic heterosexuality. They revel in asserting their masculinity over their opponents, and, in most cases, are more attractive to the opposite sex.”

 

The public turns to professional athletes as the macho symbols of society. We tend to think that there is nothing manlier than a bunch of men huddled around a television watching Sunday football. And while manliness and homosexuality are by no means mutually exclusive, they tend to be coupled with each other. This ‘blanket’ thinking has plagued the world of sports and those who live as both homosexuals and athletes. Homosexuality in sports has been a taboo topic since the beginning of time. A lot of this is linked to the fact that athletes travel in packs, live alongside each other in hotel rooms, and are constantly around fellow men. While many people would argue that these homosexual athletes are not necessarily thinking about their teammates sexually, the concept of a homosexual athlete is still rejected and ignored.

 

The sexual orientation of athletes is something that teams are concerned with from day one. In an interview with NPR, Stefan Fatsis stated that “One player, a tight end named Nick Kasa from the University of Colorado told a radio station in Denver that he was asked: Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?”. This of course is wrong, and speaks volumes about how wary sports teams are when they are recruiting athletes. Later in the article they discuss how players who are gay are often encouraged to fake heterosexual relationships to land a career in the NFL. Teams are concerned with their image to the point where they will harm their own players, “teams want to know how their locker room would be impacted by a gay player and what they might have to deal with if a player came out.” Unfortunately for these teams, it’s not about them, it’s about their players and the players’ well being. Luckily, some response are positive, and gay athletes who’ve come out during their professional career have received support from the public. Fatsis continues, “the support for Rogers has been unlike anything I’ve seen in sports: a flood of tweets from players, even a video made by coaches and players for the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer.” One can only hope that all athletes facing sexual discrimination can see the manner in which Rogers was supported, and hopefully feel safe enough to be themselves among their teams and around the public.

 

Leigh Steinberg of the Huffington Post, who has spent a large portion of her career representing gay athletes writes, “For most of the 40 years I’ve represented professional athletes, homosexuality has been a frightening taboo. This is the reason that virtually no team sport athletes have ever “come out” during their careers. At one point in the 90s when I was asked whether I would encourage a gay client to announce his sexual preference publicly, my response was “not on your life.”” This speaks largely to how intense the taboo was: one’s sexuality is something that looms over them constantly–gay or straight–and the notion of one’s sexuality being so chastised is sad to say the least. Additionally, the emotional and psychological repercussions of being silenced by a massive industry is something that few of us to begin to understand. Surely athletes have rejected participating on major teams or even walked off major teams to merely live a life in which they can be free. Steinberg’s experience with the taboos concerning homosexuality are also reflective of the industry’s awareness in their overt discrimination and silencing of homosexual athletes, further exacerbating the ‘wrongness’ of the situation.

 

In all areas of society, times are changing, and we are becoming more receptive to those who defy traditional stereotypes. Although a sports environment may appear to be a peculiar environment for a gay man, one of the main elements of being on a sports team, is teamwork. Steinberg states, “They train together, bleed together, and watch each others backs. The real test of acceptance of a teammate is reliability and courage under pressure, that is what earns respect in team sports” and this notion should only be seen further in locker rooms across the country. Any discrimination against a teamwork on the basis of sexuality and is inherently wrong, thus, the discrimination toward a homosexual should be as untolerated as discrimination against a black teammate.

 

Though progress has been made, there is still tremendous room for improvement in how homosexuality is viewed in sports. ‘The battle for gay rights’ is one that will continue to be extremely difficult. Though many athletes in professional sport history have been gay, the ideal straight, macho man is still a figure that is worshipped, especially by Western society. In the United States, athletes may be lucky enough to play for a city that is okay with their sexuality, and perhaps even supports them, however, gender testing for events like the Olympics is still a reality that human beings have had to undergo. The emphasis on sexuality in sports is unfair, because while sports figures are viewed as heroes, they still deserve the courtesy as a human being first. The atmosphere surrounding homosexuals in sports is still tense, but the tensions will loosen as we become more familiar with the various types of individuals around us. Fighting the taboo of homosexuality in sports can only be done with the cooperation of the public, as the public is the driving force in athletes’ success.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Steinberg, Leigh. “The Time Has Come for Gay Athletes.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

 

“Gay Athletes Face Discrimination In Professional Sports.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

 

“The Battle for Gay Rights in Sports.” Philstar.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Professional Sports Causing a Delay with LGBTQ Acceptance

In today’s day and age there seems to be a certain stigma pertaining to minorities and their civil rights. As a whole, it’s human nature for people to have different beliefs alluding to the fact as to why there has been a freedom of choice as to which values to practice. In order for these minorities to express how they really feel, they aim for national attention, giving them the best chance to be thought of as an equal. Sports in general impact societal issues because they bring national attention to public matters such as sexual orientation. In recent years there has been a number of homosexual players that have tried to be iconic, but professional sports just doesn’t allow it. Even with the legality of same sex marriage and the strides the LGBTQ community has taken, it is still in a long battle with professional sports.

First and foremost, in such a large pool people, the American people will always look to go sports as kind of a getaway from reality. With this, the reality is that the viewership wouldn’t change much if the level of playing and the ability of the players stayed consistent no matter what type of individual is on the field. This makes the most sense, right? Wrong. Professional sports as a whole are actually hurting the acceptance of LGBTQ people and their community.

In a Time article written by Sean Gregory, he writes about the study, entitled ““Out On The Fields” and billed as “the first international study on homophobia in sport,” is a survey of nearly 9,500 people, mostly from six countries (the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand).“ The study concludes that over every three out of four people that belong to the LGB community have faced homophobia in sports. Moreover, “The study found the U.S. had the highest percentage of gay men reporting that they had received verbal threats in a sports environment, and the highest percentage of gay men who heard slurs. In fact, of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. ranked worst in sports homophobia and discrimination, as measured by the “inclusion score” developed by the researchers ” (Gregory). It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress with the acceptance of homosexuality in sports. But going by these results, we have a long way to go.

This brings us to Jason Collins, the first openly gay person in professional sports. In his testimony proclaiming his retirement, he dives into much more detail about how his homosexuality and professional career cross paths. In an article titled, I’m Out written by Jason Collins himself, he alludes to the hardships of his career. “Hey Jason … Jason! How come we never see you with any women? Are you gay?” The team bus was uncomfortably silent. Everybody from the front of the bus to the back heard the question. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. In sports, guys bust each other’s balls all the time. I had been asked that question a few different times by teammates in my previous years in the league, but this time was different. Whenever guys would go out on the town on road trips, I always had a built-in excuse—a trip to a local casino or a visit to a family friend or a college buddy in that city that I had to go see. Sometimes those friends were real. Sometimes I made them up and would sit alone in the hotel watching TV while the guys went out to enjoy the nightlife.” He is in a way letting everyone know through his dialect that the LGBTQ isn’t allowed in professional sports. Idolism is too powerful for the new generations not to listen to these athletes and try to live and be like them. So, when a gay professional athlete is coming out and pointing out that being gay was something that he was ashamed to tell his teammates on and off the court, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to delve into the idea that professional sports and LGBTQ don’t go hand in hand. Collins makes that clear in the statement “It felt like everybody on that bus was looking at me and could see right through me. Part of me was tired of running. Part of me wanted to scream out the truth and just get it over with, but I couldn’t. In a split second, that familiar survival instinct kicked in and I thought, Okay, I have to prove to these guys that I’m straight.”

Next is Michael Sam. Michael was the first openly gay athlete to declare for the draft in the National Football League. With little detail needed, “Starting the pre-draft ranked 90th by CBS Sports, it took just three hours for sports pundits to drop Sam by 70-points. Why did Sam’s sports stock drop so rapidly, moving down to 160th on their pick list? Apparently because CBS Sports knew something that I didn’t: being an openly gay man and a NFL player were not in the cards yet ” (Macarow). While Michael Sam came out and said that he believes that if anyone uses slanders and slurs than they are simply uneducated may be correct, but that is just the nature of the game. “An anonymous NFL assistant coach told SI that Sam was not drafted because franchise owners knew that an out gay player would disrupt a team’s dynamic: “There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle [a gay player] or deal with the thought of that. […] If you knowingly bring someone in [to the locker room] with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality “” (Macarow). A lot goes into the concept of professional sports. It’s more then just the players and coaches; it’s also the fans that attend the games. In addition, “Professional sports is fundamentally big business. The NFL alone raked in $7.24 billion in revenue last season. If franchise owners and team management sense homophobia in the stands, it is more likely that they would be likely to avoid out gay players — right or wrong. This in turn means less players coming out, less positive role models for younger LGB athletes and ultimately slower improvement in the diversity of pro teams ” (Macarow). In a business and unfortunate reasoning, if the fans don’t want it then the teams don’t need it.

All in all, professional sports are causing a delay in the spread of acceptance for the LGBTQ community. With the few athletes coming out and embracing their sexuality it has become apparent that professional sports as a whole haven’t come to grips with the idea yet. From players to coaches to the audience, progress still needs to be made for LGBTQ equality in national sports.

 

Sources

Collins, Jason. “I’m Out | by Jason Collins.” The Players Tribune. N.p., 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Gregory, Sean. “U.S. Ranks Worst in Sports Homophobia Study.” Time. Time, 09 May 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Macarow, Aron. “The Group Who’s Most Homophobic in Sports.” Attn:. N.p., 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

WHY IS IT OKAY FOR ATHLETES TO GET AWAY WITH ABUSING THEIR WIVES?

It is very common in today’s society that athlete’s wives are the targets of abuse; this has been a reoccurring issue that happens greatly in the world of sports, but sadly doesn’t get the publicity that it should. This is a reoccurring issue that affects a large percent of the population on daily basis, and because athletes are that charge factor that makes up these group of individuals. They mostly look at the details from these groups of individuals and for the sole reason that they are athletes. These individual get excused for their actions because of who they are, because of their fame, because they are heavy fund contributors to stadiums and all those who coach these players. Punishing these players, for these distraught actions would then amount to the loss of funds of coaches, and that’s one aspect that these individual in control won’t loose. When a man attacks a woman, some people view this as men simply being the disciplinarians of the household, but what they fail to realize is that the woman is still a person. Still a human being that should never have to endure any form of mistreatment, and especially from their spouse, someone in whom they feel that they can turn to in the midst of a storm, turn to for protection, or as their confidant. Once these actions occur, it changes the dynamic of both individuals. An example of this is with football player Ray Rice, it was caught on footage that he repeatedly punched his girlfriend in the face that led to a knockout, and was then seen dragging her on the floor out of the elevator. After this instance went viral his teams suspended him and when more footage was released had him it out the remaining season. After going to court, the judge ruled him innocent and dismissed him of all charges. The question loom, if this video hadn’t gone viral or circulated the internet, would these sports teams still have allowed him to play in games, or was this a publicity move to save them? I could only imagine the amounts of domestic abuse that occur that never get reported or recorded with athletes. Statistic has proven that out of the 15,000 cases of domestic abuse between athletes and their spouse, 8,000 get dismissed and or thrown out. It’s these statistics that make you ponder, what has the criminal justice system turned into, what is being taken seriously and what is not? What is considered a serious crime to have someone punished? What does it take death to be pursued for the criminal system to realize the seriousness of many crimes? There is no way that after multiple major punches to her head, dragging onto the floor that a judge could not convict the person that has caused this. It really makes you think, had the victim had been a relative of the judge or those involved in the sentencing would the end results then have been differently. What would be their opinions to the beatings of their mother, daughter, or cousin; if this happened to their family members what would they think of the judge’s decision to dismiss all charges and sentence the perpetrator to nothing but let them free. It’s instances like these and so many more that urges you to want to protest and want our criminal justice system to be swept clean, new laws and regulations to be created, because what exist now is not helping anyone. Domestic violence is a serious and is a very common reoccurring issue that seems to not get the publicity that it should, the world tend to  not be aware of these issues that of sport teams winning super bowls. Why does our society not react when there in the midst of wrong doing? Why are some wrong doing accepted by some and not all, or not any at all? Why does society pick and choose situations that seem to be fair? Why do we let our images of what a man should be, over step when wrong is occurring? In order to change the issue that is upfront, society has got to have a more efficient way of finding the problem and creating a solution to the problem. If we continue to allow these issues to exist and not do anything about these situations, they will continue to happen and never stop.

 

 

 

Labels & Gay-Bashing

An issue that is currently one of the many topics at the forefront of society as well as American life is the idea of being gay and how things, ideals, and mindsets are changing in the world when it comes to the idea of how to treat gays as well as their positions in society. However despite all of the progress that has been made for the LGBT community, the whole idea of being gay still is taboo. In the private sphere for some families it still shakes the whole family if a relative comes out of the closet and reveals that they are indeed gay or lesbian. Take this statement, and amplify it by one hundred, when this same revelation is made in the public sphere, more specifically in the realm of sports.

It is no secret that sports, in the mind of many, is a field for men and not just men, the strongest, the most aggressive, the most ruthless and intimidating men to be able to come out, show their skills and entertain the masses. Which is why, despite the progress that we have seen for the LGBT community, an athlete being gay in this day and age is still a revelation in which the world cannot and many times refuses to accept. Homosexuals cannot publicly be an athlete is probably a statement that would be very well supported if asked. Apparently, in the minds of the masses as well as athletes and people in the realm of sports in general one’s sexual orientation affects their skill in physical activity, two separate things that I still have yet been able to connect to one another.

The blame however, does not only fall on sports or even athletes themselves solely in my opinion. Sports, especially contact sports such as football, basketball and hockey as stated earlier are considered innately masculine. The pervasive idea when it comes to homosexual men, especially, is that they are innately feminine, soft, weak and frail. Clearly based on this statement we can see that what makes a true athlete and one that is truly capable of expressing athleticism is completely opposite from the idea of what the homosexual man is. The popular belief that all homosexual men are the girly, super feminine, in your face type of gay is one that has followed all gay men forever, even being labeled to myself who happens to be a black gay male in America. While this type of gay does exist, the label does not define every homosexual male in the world. Just like there are various labels one can affix to various people who consider themselves heterosexual, such as, “girl-next-door”, “nerd”, “jock” etc. these same labels can be used to describe members of the LGBT community as well. There are gay jocks, gay nerds, hell your favorite football or basketball player could be gay, the most important thing to take away from this is that sexual orientation is not a reflection of personality or personality traits. People are not defined by their sexuality, and they are much more than who they decide to lie with at night. Using sexual orientation to define a person in my opinion is what keeps many people “in the closet” both male and female as a whole, due to them wanting to be accepted and judged based on the content of their character not who they love (since, contrary to popular belief, homosexuality is not a choice). On a larger scale, using labels separates people and as a result breeds discrimination between groups.

In the realm of sports, one of the most sacred places for athletes is the locker room. Here athletes are with comfortable and build camaraderie with their fellow teammates. They joke around, they talk about day-to-day things such as their sexual conquests, and sometimes they even gay-bash. The locker room is probably one of the single most areas in which “in the closet” athletes feel the most comfortable in not because they can not handle themselves around other men but because they have to deal with being taunted and ridiculed about a part of themselves that they are aware of yet have to hide which can lead to these individuals being affected on a psychological level. Former baseball player, Tyler Dunnington, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014, who played with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, a team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, for one season decided to quit the game he has loved all of his life due to gay-bashing. In an open letter to Outsports, he detailed his experiences with gay-bashing for many years that he endured while in both college and the minor leagues at the hands of both teammates as well as coaches. “I was one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved. I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.” He even went further and revealed that he has heard coaches and players discuss killing gays, which led him to be miserable playing a sport that he has loved all his life which led to him quitting ultimately for what he believe was his sanity. An article I found went even further to prove the hate that is bred within the locker room, in which the author of the article went as far as stating that athletes such as Michael Sam and Jason Collins (both who were previously closest athletes) were poisoning sports as a whole. His reasoning being that Sam made comments saying that locker room gay-bashing jokes are “ignorant, and uneducated” and that the locker room should be protected for being the last true places for men. As seen with Dunnington, gay-bashing can harm these athletes and even outside the sports realm gay-bashing leads many regular people to go as far as committing suicide. A person whether out or in the closet should not have to deal with being taunted and ridiculed for who they are, especially when they did not make the choice to be the way they are. It is not fair for people who identify with the LGBT community to be treated as if all we are is our sexual preference and as a result we cannot be comfortable with ourselves otherwise face criticism from society. Wake up world, gay people are here, we have many different backgrounds, personalities and traits that define us, and we aren’t going anywhere.

 

 

Why is no one talking about Rio?

We are now just a mere four months away from the start of the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The excitement is beginning to set in for most people to watch their countrymen compete in their favorite sports against the best athletes from across the world over. I am not immune to this excitement. I cannot wait to watch Allyson Felix double in the 200m and the 400m races, I cannot wait to watch the incredible Dibaba sisters compete in their respective distance events for Ethiopia, I cannot wait for the electric atmosphere that always surrounds the 100m finals that will only be elevated due to the fact that Usain Bolt has publicly stated that this will be his last Olympic competition. This is one of the only times that my favorite sport of Track and Field is shown on television on a national scale. Yet, my excitement and my favorite sport may be tarnished this year by the deplorable conditions in Rio and no one is talking about it. Just last week I was talking to my family about the upcoming Olympic Games and all of the issues that were going on in Rio right now and my sister had no idea what I was talking about. Unfortunately, that is a reality in most families in North America right now. There is a vast number of people that have no idea what is going on right now in Rio simply because it is not being talked about.

But first, let’s take a moment to talk about what is happening in that city at the moment. For one, the water conditions are absolutely deplorable. This water is rife with human sewage, pollution and trash. There is human excrement rampant in the water and there has been reports of a man seeing a human arm in the water. While this may be fictional, the fact that there is a possibility that it may, in fact, actually be true is very telling of the conditions of the water. Competitors training in this water have become violently ill with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The fact that competitors competing in open water events will be competing in this water is very concerning. Another health issue surrounding the Games here is the outbreak of a new mosquito borne virus, Zika, a virus that could further harm the health of the athletes. Furthermore, before it was met with a considerable amount of backlash that caused the government to retract the statements, there was talk that the athletes would have to pay for their own air conditioning in the Olympic Village after having already announced that there would be no televisions in the rooms on which competitors could watch their countrymen compete in other events. The development of the stadiums, the villages, and the overall running of the production has seen a considerable drop in money and volunteers. The budget was cut by a staggering thirty percent, the number of volunteers was cut from 70,000 to 50,000, the building of seats in some stadiums has halted and the number of transportation vehicles for the athletes has dropped from 5,000 to 4,000. And those are just the conditions surrounding the games. That is not taking in to consideration the political turmoil that is swirling through the city right now. The President of Brazil is being faced with the threat of impeachment and all of the men who may succeed him are facing corruption charges of their own, some of a much more serious caliber. “According to the New York Times, 271 of the 594 members of Brazil’s Congress are facing ‘serious charges,’ while according to The Economist, 352 ‘face accusations of criminal wrongdoing.’” So in addition to the threat against competitors health there is also the threat of political protests and riots in Rio during the Games that will threaten their safety, too.

All of these things are happening leading up to the Olympics and no one is talking about it. It is because of this that I would argue that sports journalist have a responsibility to bring these issues to light. While it is unfortunate that our involvement in a sporting event in the city had to bring these issues to light, they cannot keep flying under the radar any longer. These need to be talked about. Our athletes’ health and safety is in danger. There is the thought that- that doesn’t fall under their job description as a sports journalist, but I would further argue that sports and athletes have played a larger role in society for decades. Take for instance, when Muhammad Ali used his platform as a world famous boxer to speak out against the war in Vietnam or when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black gloved fists in 1968 to protest racism and oppression in America. The line between sports and society has not only been blurred for decades, but are integral parts of each other. These issues are a serious part of the impending games. These issues need to be brought to light and they need to be talked about. The health of the athletes, the safety of the competitors, and the excitement and fervor around the games are at stake here.