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FIFA Jumps on Olympic Russian Bandwagon

13 Aug

As we’ve been posting about here, the back and forth between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Russia’s government has been dizzying.

As it stands currently, not much has changed. IOC is telling the public that there’s nothing to worry about and that Olympians and fans will not be subject to their anti-gay law, while the Russian government in no uncertain terms is saying quite the opposite. Yesterday, the IOC seemed to begin conceding the fact that gay and lesbian athletes will indeed not be protected by their status as Olympians and what’s more – they will be punished by IOC if they DARE speak out and tell someone they’re gay.

As we’ve pointed out here, it’s clear that these draconian laws and the IOC’s implied support of them puts gay and lesbian athletes at a clear disadvantage. How well can a person perform when they’re worried constantly about hiding who they are? As we’ve seen with athletes who have come out, they always perform better with that weight being lifted from their shoulders. Here is the IOC demanding of gay & lesbian athletes that they carry that extra weight they’d left behind.

Spanish football player Mario Gomez encourages gay athletes to come out of the closet.

German football player Mario Gomez encourages gay athletes to come out of the closet.

Today, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) jumped on the very popular bandwagon of asking Russia to clarify their anti-gay laws. You see, FIFA’s World Cup is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2018. The chair of that event, Alexey Sorokin has been quoted defending Russia’s law:

“It is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference…Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious.”

The explanation that we are just somehow confusing what the law is about is ridiculous. No one is being arrested in Russia for running around naked, displaying their homosexuality. They are being arrested for making films about gay people in Russia, marching in a pride parade, and Russian police stand by and watch when gay people are beaten and killed.

There’s more to the story here though. Last year, FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, which goes a good deal further in banning homosexuality. Any homosexual acts are considered illegal in the Gulf nation and is punishable with prison time. When FIFA President Sepp Blatter was asked about Qatar’s anti-gay laws, he replied that gay soccer fans could just “refrain from any sexual activities” while there.

You have to wonder why FIFA is attempting to go after Russia on their laws but excusing Qatar for their own? Perhaps with all the attention focused on the Olympics, they’re hoping to share a little of that spotlight themselves.

Madison Square Garden Thinks ‘Real Men’ Don’t Dance in Homophobic Ad

1 Nov

It’s no secret that there’s some homophobia in professional sports, but the tide is turning. With pro athlete heroes like footballers Brendan Ayabendejo and Chris Kluwe, wrestler Hudson Taylor, Hockey player Sean Avery and dozens more speaking out for marriage equality, we can see things are changing.

However, for every few steps forward, there has to be a step back. Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks has released a new ad being seen on phone booths in New York City. The ad reads:

“It’s Friday night. You can either see a Broadway harness malfunction or you can watch real men fly.”

Yes, there’s a little dig at Spiderman in there (a little two years ago, but I digress). But take a look at the next part of the ad where it clearly claims that people who work on Broadway aren’t “real men.”

The insinuation that someone who spends a few months a year throwing a ball in a hoop is any more of a man than someone who does 8 shows a week literally breaking their backs as they do their acrobatics on a stage is not only insulting, but it’s utterly false.

As a kid who grew up doing musicals, seeing an ad like this would have hurt me. Gay kids out there who happen to be attracted to something other than athletics are putting up with enough bullying from their peers and in many cases their families. They don’t need it from Madison Square Garden too.

As New York has seen enough trouble this past week, let’s hope MSG quickly issues an apology and pulls down their homophobic ad.

In conversations about this, I’ve found a few people don’t find anything offensive about this. One friend even advised that we shouldn’t get upset about this and we should instead wait until some NBA player calls someone a “fag” and no one does anything about it. The problem with this argument is that when the phrase “Real Man” is used as a pejorative against another person, it is nearly always the same thing as calling someone a “fag.” Everytime that phrase has been used to insult someone in the last 50 years, it has been to question someone’s masculinity and/or their sexuality. That’s why I think this is important to point out. This is essentially the same as an NBA Player shouting “fag” at someone, except this time it’s on a phone booth in New York and no one is saying anything about it.

After some calls to Madison Square Garden, I’ve found it’s an ad for MSG Networks and I’ll update you when I receive a response.

h/t to Richard Roland, who took the photos.

Transgender Athletes Not Breaking Stride.

7 Dec

The world of sports is a frontier for conversations about equality.  As we’ve written before, openly LGBT athletes force a discussion in the world of professional sports, the administration of sports associations, and among fans.  Our mantra is that with greater visibility comes greater acceptance and Transgender athletes are breaking new ground and winning victories in this regard, on and off the field.

Last month a George Washington University Basketball player came out to the public as Transgender.  Kye Allums, formerly known as Kay-Kay to teammates and fellow students, decided at to announce his gender identity via outsports.com, and has received overwhelming support from teammates and the university administration.  After a difficult decision to announce his gender identity, Kye has become the first NCAA Division One college basketball player.  Kye, protected under Washington, DC’s anti-discrimination laws, is also supported by the NCAA, and has paved the way for fellow college athletes to follow in his footsteps.

Earlier this month the LPGA voted to remove its “female at birth” requirement after Lana Lawless, a transgender woman, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the policy violated California civil rights law. The suit also includes the Long Drivers of America, who barred the former Long Drive Champion under the LPGA’s “female at birth” rule.  The LGPA voted on its own to remove the policy and it seems the players are doing just fine with the change. Christie Kerr told the Associated Press:

We don’t need to comment on this because it’s a dead issue, she can compete if she can qualify. We certainly don’t want to discriminate against anybody, that’s not what the LPGA is about. And if she can qualify, she’ll be able to play. We’re like, the last sports organization to do it, it’s just we’ve never really had to look at it before.

The public at large has a lot of questions about transgender issues, and transgendered individuals have been making great strides to raise visibility.  Vital to the struggle for LGBT equality is public education and just by being open and honest about gender identity in sports we can wrap the conversation in an experience that is familiar to the public.

Repeat after me: with greater visibility comes greater acceptance.

Gay as a Football Bat: Why Does FIFA Hate Us?

3 Dec

Many of us spent several days trying to escape the FIFA-fever that came over the world this past summer as the World Cup was being fought for. Many of us also spent several hours, crowded into hot, sweaty bars, watching intently as the hot, sweaty players kicked and head-butted the ball across the field. It was an event that was watched by millions of gay and straight people alike.

Yesterday, we heard the news that FIFA announced the location of the 2022 World Cup would be Qatar, a Middle Eastern country with 1.7 million people (which is smaller than the state of Connecticut). While normally, the location of a World Cup series would not be of much interest to Talk About Equality, there’s something quite troubling about this choice.

You see, in Qatar it is illegal to be gay (or at least to “commit acts of homosexuality”). By choosing Qatar to host the games, FIFA has stated quite plainly that it does not care about football’s gay fans (or players).

Just a few days after German footballer Mario Gomez urged gay players to come out, FIFA is telling its players quite the opposite.

Russia was chosen to host the 2018 games. And though Russia does not have the same laws banning homosexuality that Qatar does, one must note that Russia’s capital Moscow has banned gay pride marches and parades for years. They even went so far as to expell the organizer of the gay pride parade out of Russia.

German Footballer Mario Gomez Urges Gay Players to Come Out of the Closet

What would happen if gay players, their allies, their fans, the companies that sponsor the teams were to boycott the games due to the bigoted laws on gays these countries hold? The world is changing pretty quickly, and hell 2018 and 2022 are 8 and 12 years away – might there be an opportunity here to create some real change?

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