Sports training focuses on working together as a highly calibrated unit. If factors having nothing to do with ability damage that unity, the team suffers.
Racism is such a factor. While it has not been eradicated in sports, there’s no doubt U.S. teams have been enormously strengthened by diversity — won through decades of struggle.
Gay baiting has also been a fixture in many sports — nowhere more than in football. But two leading players have stepped up and called it out.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who is African-American, went public on YouTube in support of same-sex marriage. This infuriated Maryland State Assembly Delegate Emmett Burns, who demanded the Ravens’ owner muzzle Ayanbadejo.
Another NFL player, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, then posted an online reply to Burns that went viral. “Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level,” said Kluwe, who is white. He ended, “I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your ‘I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing’ and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it.”
Three cheers — for two athletes who spoke out for progress and the rest of their unionized co-players who stood with them.