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VIEWPOINTS How we're winning respect in sports
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Eliza Byard, ED of GLSEN
2013-02-06

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If you heard about San Francisco 49ers player Chris Culliver's Super Bowl press conference, you learned that he was "just kidding around" earlier in the week when he made shocking homophobic comments.

The 49ers were quick to repudiate Culliver's earlier remarks and Culliver did apologize, but perhaps the most important thing about Culliver's story is how seriously out of step he is with current momentum in the world of sports. Consider the other following developments from only the past few weeks:

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) supporter and star NBA player Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets appeared alongside his two moms in a video supporting marriage equality;

AOL recently released a video with US international soccer star Megan Rapinoe in support of GLSEN, No Name-Calling Week and Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project;

Vancouver Canucks' goaltender Cory Schneider shared the ice with 16-year-old transman and fellow goaltender Cory Oksam for a birthday celebration the young man is unlikely to ever forget. The story was featured in the team's fan newsletter the very next day.

Years of brave and trailblazing advocacy of athletes from Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis and Billy Bean to Faried, Schneider and Rapinoe means that players like Culliver no longer have license to spout hateful thoughts at will and without comment.

Now, we're witnessing this inclusive message of sportsmanship transform school gyms and athletic fields. School coaches in places like Bethesda, Maryland are leading student-athletes to take the GLSEN's Team Respect Challenge. And Washington's Interscholastic Activities Association has adopted trans-inclusive policies to guide high school interscholastic sports in the entire state.

GLSEN is proud to have had the support of so many of the individuals who helped bring this change about, most recently on the incredible Advisory Board for Changing the Game. And while incidents like Culliver's hurtful remarks continue to surface, we are grateful to count upon your support to affect change from the football field to the school gym.

Our work remains largely undone, especially in school-based sports and physical education, but together, we can keep up the momentum to ensure schools are safe and healthy places for our youth.

Eliza Byard is the executive director of GLSEN.


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