The Human Rights Campaign unveiled a new TV ad that debuted in targeted cities in late April before the USA cable network broadcast Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story, based on actual events about a boxing champion who struggled with his sexual orientation. The ad includes images and names of openly gay professional athletes Billy Bean of MLB, Rosie Jones of the LPGA and Esera Tuaolo of the NFL. The ad promotes 'level playing fields' for all Americans, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes.
Sports Illustrated released a poll showing that 86 percent of Americans think that openly gay athletes should not be excluded from team sports. However, the poll went on to say that 68 percent think it hurts an athlete's career to be openly gay.
The film debuted at Sundance and then on USA Network April 20 and is directed by Dan Klores and Ron Berger. It is a moving story of love, violence and redemption that chronicles the life of six-time world boxing champion Emile Griffith, who in 1962 killed the then champion Benny 'kid' Paret in the ring. At the afternoon weigh-in of their rubber match, Paret had stood beside his challenger, whispered in Griffith's ear a highly offensive spanish homosexual slur. Griffith lunged at the Cuban champion in front of shocked onlookers, setting the stage for a brutal bout and a lifetime of haunting memories.
The bout had a lasting impact on not only the sport, but also on the media and politics of the day.