The City Council yesterday unanimously passed a resolution to call on major league sports commissioners to support and protect lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender athletes.
I was proud to be the lead sponsor of the resolution. Aldermen Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and James Cappleman (46th Ward) joined me as co-sponsors. The resolution was inspired by The Last Closet, a grassroots campaign to end the silence and homophobia in professional sports.
For a copy of the resolution, click on the attachment below:
Unlike most other professions today, participants in professional sports believe they cannot be open about their sexual orientation. Until pro-basketball player Jason Collins‘ courageous decision last week to publicly announce he is gay, no active male player in any of the five major professional sports leagues in the United States had ever come out.
Even the U.S. military, once one of the last bastions of discrimination against LGBT individuals, now recognizes the need to address prejudice openly, instead of assuming it does not exist.
Bias-based bullying and gay teen suicide are all too frequent occurrences in American society. Having gay professional athlete saying the words, “I’m a pro athlete and I’m gay,” would make a world of difference in the lives of LGBT kids struggling with self-acceptance.
The resolution urges the commissioners of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, theNational Basketball Association, and Major League Soccer to state publicly that they support their gay players, invite them to come out, and will take all action necessary to ensure their safety. In doing so, they will follow the lead of National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman who took this important step bypublicly welcoming gay athletes within the NHL to come out if they choose to do so.
In light Jason Collin’s and Commissioner Bettman’s announcements, it is essential that the other four league Commissioners prepare for the inevitability of more players coming out.
As Chairman of the City Council Committee on Human Relations, I held hearings on the resolution last Tuesday. The hearings elicited testimony of support from over a dozen witnesses, including Commission on Human Relations Chairman Mona Noriega, current and past college and amateur athletes, sportswriters, clergy and representatives from LGBT advocacy organizations. No one testified in opposition.
For a video of the Human Relations Committee hearings, CLICK HERE.
At a press conference before the City Council vote, ESPN.com sportswriterChristina Kahrl (pictured on left with Alderman Cappleman and me, courtesy of DNAinfo/Ted Cox) stated, “The importance of this measure cannot be understated. As a sportswriter, I feel considerable support in baseball,” she said, adding that LGBT athletes deserve the same.
“Strong LGBT roles models supply these youth with the confidence to know that who they are in the world is just as valuable as their straight peers and that there are those of us who will stand by them, protect them and help them to grow to their fullest potential,” she said.
With the passage of this resolution in the Chicago City Council, I am confident other cities and towns across the nation will sponsor similar resolutions.