North Texas Daily

OPINION: Real Talk with Ryne: Boxer’s choice may inspire gay athletes

OPINION: Real Talk with Ryne: Boxer’s choice may inspire gay athletes

October 23
22:54 2012

Ryne Gannoe / Senior Staff Writer

It takes guts to step into a boxing ring. Going toe-to-toe with another human being poised to paint the canvas red with your blood is not an easy thing to do. It takes bravery.

Earlier this month, Orlando Cruz was named the bravest man in boxing, but not because of any fight inside the ring. Cruz became the first openly gay professional boxer. Last Friday he won his first fight since making his announcement.

Cruz’s coming out riled up boxing fans. The Twitterverse exploded with comments, including one that said Cruz ruined his career by coming out. Discrimination of this or any kind should have no place in sports.

While anti-bullying movements like It Gets Better Project – a movement by Dan Savage to help LGBT teens realize suicide is not the way to handle criticism – combat discrimination in schools, there aren’t a lot of openly gay icons in sports.

Three-time All-American wrestler Hudson Taylor founded Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make “all individuals involved in sports to respect every member of their communities, regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” according to its website.

Athlete Ally takes pledges from players and athletes not to discriminate against gay athletes. It currently has 6,084 pledges, far from the 380,000 student athletes in the NCAA.

While more and more athletes have displayed support for gay rights, including boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, the amount of visible LGBT athletes is still small.

For example, of the 14,690 athletes to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic games, only 23 were openly gay, and only four of those were men.

One of that small 0.16 percent was Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. women’s soccer team. Rapinoe announced her coming out just weeks before the London Games began. She told Time magazine they need more gay athletes to come out because of rampant homophobia in sports.

There is a strong idea to be masculine, especially among male athletes, and some wrongly think that being gay is a non-masculine identity. In the four major American sporting leagues – the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, National Football League and Major League Baseball –  no active player has ever come out. Only seven players have come out after retirement.

The lack of strong icons in professional sports has a trickle-down effect to collegiate sports. Athletic departments and college teams should have no reason to judge an athlete except for talent. Not for race, not for religion and not for sexual orientation. None of these things define a person or an athlete.

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