Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nascar joins the national conversation

Nothing I have written on jersey/slant has generated more page views, discussion, misunderstanding and utter vitriol than a post entitled, "Nascar's silence on Jason Collins says it all."

It was written last April, the day after N.B.A. veteran Jason Collins became the first professional athlete in one of the four major team sports to come out as gay. I wrote about the reaction to the news, including a phone call from President Barack Obama and tweet from First Lady Michelle Obama. But more specifically, I noted the sports world reaction, which included support from athletes in the N.B.A., N.F.L., Major League Baseball as well as other sports.

As I pointed out in the column, there was no public statement from Nascar or any of its drivers (although a Nascar official did respond to a request for comment). I wrote that it was a missed opportunity for the sport to join the national conversation and sent the wrong message to those within Nascar who are gay. For that, I was vilified.

Of course, gay rights remain a contentious, ever-evolving issue in this country. There continue to be opportunities to take a stand. And so it was on Wednesday when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced she vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses to legally discriminate against gays in the state.

Brewer came under significant pressure from politicians on both sides of the aisle and business groups who were against the bill. There were also indications the N.F.L. would have considered moving the Super Bowl, slated to be played in Arizona in 2015, to another state if it became law.

When Brewer announced she had vetoed the bill, there were many who went public with their approval of the decision. Among them: Nascar. With the Sprint Cup series about to shift to Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, spokesman David Higdon released this statement on Wednesday night:
"We are pleased with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of SB1062. Nascar actively strives to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the motorsports industry. Nascar has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, gender, national origin, age, color, disability, religion, or other factors which deny the essential humanity of all people."
Welcome to the conversation.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Daring the NFL to discriminate

University of Missouri
The NFL has too many immature, homophobic or religiously conservative players who can't handle a gay teammate in their locker room. The NFL has too many owners, general managers or coaches who don't want to deal with the media onslaught that will come from drafting someone who is gay.

The NFL just isn't ready for an out gay player.

That's not my assessment, mind you. That's the opinion of NFL general managers and others interviewed by Sports Illustrated following the decision by Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, projected to be taken as high as the third round by some, to come out as gay before the NFL draft. According to the article, many believe Sam made a mistake by coming out. They think he will plummet in the draft and will lose six or seven figures in salary as a result.

For those wondering why he would do this, why he would make this an issue -- why any person, for that matter, wants to come out and potentially make so many around them uncomfortable:

Monday, February 3, 2014

This boycott is for you NBC, GE, Coca-Cola, etc.


Some people love the Summer Olympics. For me, it was always the Winter Games. Phil Mahre. Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. Torville and Dean. Mike Eruzione. The best game I have watched in any sport in the last decade had to be the 2010 Olympic hockey final between the U.S. and Canada in Vancouver.

There is something about snow and ice that just warms me.

So it's going to be that much harder not to turn on the television and watch the Sochi Olympics, which begin on Feb. 6. But I can't watch. I won't. Not one second -- unless there is the kind of news many of us fear and none of us wants to see happen.
Sweet One/flickr

Barring that, I will not view, listen, tweet, post or otherwise support these Games in any way that can benefit NBC or sponsors such as General Electric, McDonald's, Coca-Cola or VISA. It's my little protest of all these companies that have turned their collective back on the human rights violations of Russia to make a buck by sponsoring these Olympic Games.

Why hit on them? After all, they didn't choose Sochi. That was the IOC's unfathomable decision. I don't know how Russia won the bid to host the 2014 Games, although it's hard not to wonder. But regardless, it's clear the IOC had its own agenda in placing these Games so close to a war zone. An actual war zone, for God's sake.

So we can't do anything about the IOC by ourselves. But we can send a message to the companies that support it. If enough of us boycott their telecasts and products and stain them all for buying into Sochi -- and believe me, I am not alone -- maybe they will in turn send a message to the IOC that will actually be heard. Maybe they can be the ones to make a difference.

And maybe this will be the last time the IOC chooses a host that threatens the lives of its own citizens, places so many needlessly in harm's way and even poisons stray dogs.

Maybe not. But I couldn't live with myself if I supported the Sochi Olympics in any way. Can you?

#Principle6 #StonewallSochi.