Raising Awareness and Making Change

Brendon-AyanbadejoIn the past few years our country has experienced a very pronounced interest in one of our last remaining social inequality problems. Equality for all is something that our country was founded on yet there is still a group openly discriminated against in our society, it is the LGBT community. Homosexuality is not a topic that is generally up for discussion in the world of pro sports, which has seemingly adopted a policy of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’. Recently this year, though, this very issue came to light in the NFL. Between talks of expecting players to come out, and news that the Miami Dolphins Jonathan Martin walked off the team citing allegations of bullying by teammates for his sexual orientation, in particular Richie Incognito.

NFL Accepting the Gay Community

While many remain skeptical of the NFLs ability to embrace and treat its gay players equally, the NFL and many of its players are taking a stand. Perhaps the NFLs most outspoken player on the issue of gay rights is Brendan Ayanbadejo. Ayanbadejo is joined by Scott Fujita, Connor Barwin, Domonique Foxworth, Chris Kluwe, Steve Gleason, Chris Gocong, Terrell Suggs, Donté Stallworth and Eric Winston in supporting the NFLs mission of support and acceptance of the gay community. These players and the NFL have joined with One Team Shop to produce pride shirts.

The pride shirts feature a football player running with a ball on the front, with the number and names of the players mentioned on the back. The design is done entirely in rainbow colors. All proceeds from the sale of these shirts will be given to Athlete Ally, a charity which promotes acceptance within sports and leads many social campaigns of its own in per pursuit of equal treatment and acceptance of gay sports players and the LGBT community at large. The core mission of Athlete Ally is to abolish homophobia in sports.

There are many who are critical of this step by the NFL, but there are more who are supportive. Players in the NFL tend to be larger than life and garner the admiration of many wide eyed young kids who look to their favorite players as heroes. By reaching out through this campaign the players involved are doing something truly heroic. They are setting an example of acceptance and tolerance that has been missing from not only the NFL, but most pro sports. In addition to the players supporting this campaign by putting their names on the One Team Shop shirts, other players are opening up with more prevalence about their opinion of openly gay players in the NFL. Many have given their support, or indifference to the controversial topic, saying that they do not have anything against players coming out.

This is perhaps one of the NFLs most impressive charitable contributions yet. It is one thing to give to the needy or support education. Those are things anyone can support, but by teaming with allies within the NFL to promote a message of acceptance the NFL is drawing a line on mistreatment and making a statement for social change.

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