Silence in sports furthers homophobia

By Shireen Noble, COLUMNIST
On September 20, 2012

Last weekend, Yunel Escobar, a player for the Toronto Blue Jays, painted a homophobic slur in Spanish on his eye-black during a game against Boston.

While he apologized and said he didnt mean foranyone to be offended, it resulted in a three-game suspension and a great deal of negative publicity.

Unfortunately, homophobia,discrimination and hyper-masculinity are nothing new in professional sports.

And maybe its time theproblem was talked about.

Escobars eye-black isnt an issue that exists in isolation. Sure, he was the one who decided to wear the slur, but he was also surrounded by teammates who, by all accounts, didnt appear to have said anything to him. Could it be that they just didnt know what it translated to?

Maybe. But the fact stands that sports remains a hostile environment for people who are openlynon-heterosexual.

During the past few years, thanks to efforts such as the It Gets Better project, there have been some athletes who have shared stories about their sexual orientations.

Others such as Billy Bean and Wade Davis only came out after they retired from professional sports.

This causes two big problems. First, LGBT youth dont seemany role models in sports, and it can make them feel like theyrenot welcome at least, not if theyre open about who they are.

The second is that while theyre living in fear of being outed, they remain silent in the face oflocker-room taunts or generally homophobic behavior.

Another big issue in professional sports is sexual assault.

The issue was largely brought to the publics attention by Jackson Katz, a former football player who became an anti-sexism educator and continues to tour the country, talking about masculinity tomale-dominated groups, including universities, professional sports teams and the military.

This same culture that has allowed high levels of sexual assault by members is what is allowing homophobia to run rampant.

Its time that we encourage people especially men and those in positions of power to speak up when they see something happening.

It shouldnt have taken reporters and negative publicity to intervene with Escobar.

Its time his teammates andcolleagues stop allowinghomophobia to be treated as an acceptable attitude.

This can be carried out in little ways by each of us. All it takes is a hey, thats not cool to make someone reconsider saying
something discriminatory.

While its nice to hear a public statement condemning homophobic or sexist behaviors in an organization like MLB, the strongest message one can send is letting those around him know whats not OK.

Shireen Noble is a graduatestudent in public health.

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