Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Views & Analysis

June 20, 2014

The Next Chapter in the Sports Equality Movement

Last week, I was in a room of about 100 LGBT sports advocates and stakeholders at the 3rd annual LGBT Sports Coalition Summit hosted by Nike. Formalized in 2013, the LGBT Sports Coalition consists of nonprofit members, engaged individuals, and affiliates dedicated to ending homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in sports by 2016. We held our first informal convening in 2012. The summit only had about 30 participants that first year. Now, our summit is over 100 strong, representing advocates from all levels of sports, including professional, college, K-12, and recreational. Moreover, our main sponsor in these efforts is Nike, which  granted NCLR $200,000 for sports coalition projects last year. This year, Nike has pledged to donate up to $500,000 from their sells of their #BETRUE line, a line of active wear specifically designed to celebrate LGBT sports inclusion.

Ten years ago, I would have never imagined such an event would be possible, let alone sponsored by one of the biggest names in the sports world. I started NCLR’s Sports Project 13 years ago. At that time, we were the only national LGBT organization doing sports work, and there were only a handful of advocates around the country engaging in this critical work. But little by little, our small group of advocates made great progress for sports inclusion. We protected coaches and players from LGBT discrimination. We also helped craft trans-inclusive policies to ensure more transgender athletes have equal opportunities to play. Thanks to the persistence of the brave athletes that have come out and the LGBT sports advocates who were proud to stand by them, this movement has greatly expanded in the last several years.

During the LGBT Sports Coalition’s first gathering in 2012, we were a small but dedicated group with limited reach and resources. This year, however, the summit had representatives from every North American country. We had student-athletes from high school and college. We even had representatives from professional leagues. Further, we were able to fund several sports inclusion projects, targeting LGBT discrimination in K-12 sports, developing LGBT student-athlete leaders, and creating a safe space for women coaches. Further, NCLR is leading two ground breaking projects: a Religious Think Tank; and the People of Color Inclusion Initiative. The Religious Think tank, Common Ground, developed in collaboration with the NCAA, Pat Griffin, and Br{ache the Silence, will bring together sports advocates and members of faith  communities to help increase LGBT inclusion in religious communities where such inclusion has been lacking. The People of Color Inclusion Initiative, in partnership with You Can Play and Br{ache the Silence, will focus on raising the voices of racially marginalized members in the LGBT sports community.

I’m proud to see the incredible ways our sports equality movement has grown in the last thirteen years. Indeed, the tide in the LGBT sports equality movement is changing in positive ways. During this amazing time, the NCLR Sports Project will continue to work to ensure every member of the sports community, especially marginalized members of LGBT communities, has equal access to all levels of sport.

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