By JOSEPH McCOMBS
Although Michael Sam didn’t get to play a down in the NFL, opportunities in the pros have never been greater than today for LGBT athletes. And over the past 18 years, Cyd Zeigler has had a front-row view of it all. The co-founder of Outsports.com and author of Fair Play has served a crucial role in helping gay athletes, ranging from baseball players to hunters to divers and beyond, voice their stories and find their place in sports.
“In the last 10 years, I do not know of an LGBT athlete who came out to their team and was rejected by their teammates,” Zeigler says. “Not one.” This sense of welcoming is perhaps best felt right now in the NHL, which this month has partnered with the You Can Play project to name a player on each team as an LGBT-inclusiveness ambassador. “Campaigns like the You Can Play project shine a light on the changing face of sports, and that helps,” Zeigler explains.
Also helping are the stances taken by such allies as the Warwick Rowers and such companies as Nike, whose “Equality” campaign promotes diversity and inclusiveness in sport—and not merely with buzz-word slogans, but with direct ways of volunteering and contributing to the notion of sports as unifier.
But there have still been so few out athletes in America’s “four major” sports that it’s clear more needs to be done on the individual-support level. “From my perspective, the most powerful thing leagues can do is to identify LGBT people in their leagues and work with them individually to support them in their personal and public coming-out process,” Zeigler notes. “Unfortunately, none of them are doing that.”