The LGBT move­ment’s ‘Jackie Robin­son mo­ment’?

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

The sports world is wag­ing a multi-front war for so­cial jus­tice, which could change how so­ci­ety views LGBT rights in a way that LGBT ath­letes have been un­able to. With due re­spect to Ja­son Collins, Michael Sam and Cait­lyn Jen­ner, we might fi­nally be ap­proach­ing our lon­gawaited ‘Jackie Robin­son mo­ment.’

The cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion tak­ing place in Amer­i­can ath­let­ics spans ev­ery­thing from foot­ball and bas­ket­ball, to soc­cer and lacrosse; it is be­ing fought by play­ers, own­ers and even en­tire leagues; black and white, men and women, queer and straight; for trans­gen­der rights, black lives and the uni­fy­ing yearn­ing for equal­ity and dig­nity.

The hottest front is the one opened by Colin Kaeper­nick, backup quar­ter­back for the San Fran­cisco 49ers, as he re­fuses to stand for the Star-Span­gled Ban­ner due to this coun­try’s his­toric and cur­rent state-sanc­tioned vi­o­lence against African Amer­i­cans. His ac­tions have en­raged those who be­lieve they have a mo­nop­oly on U.S. pa­tri­o­tism and con­sti­tu­tional rights, and em­bold­ened other ath­letes to join Kaeper­nick’s protest.

After gen­er­a­tions of rel­a­tive si­lence on so­cial is­sues from Amer­ica’s top sports fig­ures, the NFL sea­son opened with player protests in Mi­ami, Kan­sas City, Seat­tle and San Fran­cisco, whose owner also pledged $1 mil­lion to or­ga­ni­za­tions fight­ing racial in­equal­ity. Col­lege and high school foot­ball play­ers have made sim­i­lar demon­stra­tions, and ear­lier this month les­bian pro­fes­sional soc­cer player Me­gan Rapinoe took a knee dur­ing a pregame na­tional an­them in sol­i­dar­ity with Kaeper­nick and the larger Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

The fight­ing has been qui­eter on the LGBT front of the cur­rent sports rev­o­lu­tion, but the pro­gres­sive vic­to­ries have been mon­u­men­tal. This week, the NCAA an­nounced that it was with­draw­ing seven col­le­giate sports cham­pi­onships that were sched­uled to take place in North Carolina, due to the state’s ban on trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als us­ing the re­stroom that matches their gen­der iden­ti­ties.

The NCAA ac­tion mir­rors this sum­mer’s an­nounce­ment from the NBA that it was mov­ing the 2017 All-Star Game from North Carolina be­cause of its law­mak­ers’ stub­born big­otry. The Tar Heel State is now flanked by two sports leagues, rep­re­sent­ing the most pow­er­ful re­as­sur­ance we have re­ceived from cor­po­rate and or­ga­ni­za­tional al­lies who threat­ened to boy­cott states that en­act laws re­strict­ing trans­gen­der ac­cess to re­strooms or sanc­tion­ing anti-LGBT big­otry un­der the fa­cade of “re­li­gious lib­erty.”

The NCAA re­it­er­ated that our side is not hurl­ing empty threats, and the NBA has proven that the other side’s anger doesn’t amount to power.

Many peo­ple re­gret the out­sized in­flu­ence sports play in Amer­i­can life, but their im­pact on our his­tory and cul­ture is inar­guable. And we seem to have reached the point where Amer­i­can Sport, long a source of mas­cu­line hos­til­ity to­ward our move­ment, has joined the con­sen­sus on LGBT rights.

Just as Branch Rickey had haters after re­cruit­ing Jackie Robin­son to the Dodgers, there will be those who feel an­tag­o­nized by the bold moves of NBA and NCAA executives. How­ever, the moves are made, and it’s hard to imagine how the NBA, NCAA or any other sports league can re­verse course.

LGBT rights are on the way to be­ing as Amer­i­can as base­ball, but his­tory sug­gests there will al­ways be a need for the Kaeper­nicks of the sports world. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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