It’s sometimes easy to forget that the cultures of our professional sports are not isolated from the rest of society, and that the two affect each other. This is easy to spot when looking at the issue of LGBT rights: the same way that professional athletes are still hesitant to accept a gay teammate, a person can still be fired for being gay in twenty-nine states. Progress is slowly being made on both fronts, as last week, NFL athletes Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that not only is California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional, but also that professional athletes have an important role in promoting tolerance in society.
The outspoken equal rights advocates [Author Note: By the way, if you haven't read Kluwe's rebuttal to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., who tried to persuade the Baltimore Ravens to stop Ayanbadejo from voicing his stance on gay marriage, go read that now.] have recently caught the attention of one of our sport’s most popular fighters, Rashad Evans. Evans has not only signed their brief, but he also issued a strong statement in support of gay marriage. As he told Outsports:
“I’ve never been a homophobe, never understood what that is all about. I knew some people who were gay and never cared about their sexuality. But at the same time, I didn’t fully understand the issues around gay people until my friend BA started telling me about his full public support for gay marriage. We talked about the issue and I decided its not enough to not be against a minority, if you want things to go better for them you have to speak up with them.
“I’m a UFC fighter, a macho-type sport. I am a heterosexual guy in a tough macho sport, which is exactly the reason I feel a duty to say I support gay marriage and gay rights.
“I have nothing to gain personally from supporting this issue, and that’s the point. Society as a whole is better when there is equality, and I want to live in a country where everyone has the same rights because we all benefit from that.
“What people overlook is that is isn’t a sex issue, its a love issue. There’s no justifiable reason for trying to get in the way of two people who love each other.
“I have kids. I don’t want them growing up in a society where they, or their friends, could be second class citizens based on which person they fall in love with or who they want to be happy with.”
Despite what the naysayers want us to believe, the UFC has been very progressive as of late. Not only did an out lesbian headline UFC 157 -all while Dana White voiced his support for gay fighters, mind you – but now one of the sport’s most prominent fighters has taken a clear stance in support of gay rights. The struggle for equality may be far from over, but both of these examples are a huge help.