Before this season, the San Francisco 49ers recorded an ad for the “It Gets Better” anti-gay-bullying campaign. It was just one of many positive recent developments in the fight against homophobia in sports, among them, aggressively pro-tolerance comments from active NFL players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, the latter of whom is active in the NO H8 campaign. The tide of gay-rights advancements across the country seemed to be sweeping over the athletic world as well.
Then this week happened. First, former 49er Kwame Harris was outed as the result of a violent fight with an ex-boyfriend; then current 49er Chris Culliver was asked about it and said a he wouldn’t play with someone who was gay; then Ahmad Brooks and Isaac Sopoaga, who appeared in the “It Gets Better” video, declared that their participation somehow didn’t constitute a condemnation of homophobia. All we need now is for Ayanbadejo to claim that “No H8” is actually a campaign against text abbreviations.
In other words, it looks like gay-rights advocates in the world of sports have themselves a game. Dan Savage, cofounder of the “It Gets Better” campaign, has since taken down the team’s video. In a statement released this morning, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out called Culliver’s suspension and for Brooks and Sopoaga to be dropped from the roster after noting that “their crass words and clueless actions are divisive at they are dumb — tearing at the fabric of San Francisco at a time when the Super Bowl should be uniting the city, as well as football fans everywhere.” Meanwhile, Chris Kluwe has reiterated the importance of speaking out against homophobia in sports.
In the midst of all this noise, though, the silence from gay NFL players is loud enough to rattle the closets they’re surely living in. This would be an entirely different conversation if even just one current player came out. I mean, come on: Players regularly risk concussions and lord knows what else on a regular basis, run headfirst into walls of 300-pound linemen, and stand naked in the locker room in front of reporters — but being out and proud in 2013 is just too scary? Gurl, please.
Football is America’s game. The Super Bowl, unlike any other American sporting event, is a fully mainstream event. People who never give a damn about football give a damn about the Super Bowl. And the world is watching. This is the right time.
Waiting until retirement is no longer acceptable; recording “It Gets Better” videos that are so vague players are able to feign ignorance of them months later clearly isn’t working; and Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo are great allies, but every ally needs a warrior.