Like the majority of Americans, I love the NFL. I follow all the latest news, blogs, and breaking stories. Naturally, I read the story that femistorian posted about recently in regard to recent player support of gay marriage. I was very happy to see this opinion adopted by NFL players. I was also fairly surprised.
A few months ago, I was visiting my aunt in Philadelphia. There, I read an article in Philadelphia Magazine that led in with this picture:
Essentially, the assumption is that since 10% of the population is homosexual, close to that amount should exist in the NFL (and sports in general). However, there are still no openly gay players. The article had a few interviews from Eagles players. Most were open to the idea of an openly gay teammate, but some still expressed reservations. In a more recent interview with 12 high-profile current and former players, these players unanimously claimed that they would openly welcome and support a gay teammate.
In addition, the NFL has been forced to use replacement referees this season. Due to this development, the league expanded into new territory: the first female NFL referee. Though there was some initial concern voiced about the potential player reaction, by all accounts it has been positive. Before her first game, San Diego Chargers players openly welcomed her, with quotes such as:
“I think it’s really good. A woman is just as capable as a man to do anything.”
“If they’re doing it in the NBA, why not the NFL? “I think woman referees in the NBA are doing a great job, so I think it’s a great idea, giving her the opportunity to be out there, calling football.”
Surprised? I was. Let’s face it; there are some arenas which are notorious for their negative attitudes toward women and the LGBT community (whether these reputations are deserved or not is up for debate). The NFL and professional sports leagues fall under this category. So do the R&B and hip hop communities. However, it seems that appearances may be deceiving.
Rising R&B superstar Frank Ocean recently revealed that he is bisexual. The ensuing music industry reaction has been incredibly positive. Ocean was met with overwhelming support from many prominent figures. Russell Simmons, founder of the influential Def Jam records, said that:
“Today is a big day for hip-hop. [Ocean's] decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.”
It seems that the only people who had any problem with Ocean were some of his fans.
So what’s the big deal about all of this?
There are many times in which we write about feminist and LGBTQIQA concerns with a sense of anger, sadness, disgust, or at best a glib sense of humor. Society and the world still have a long way to go before equality can be achieved. Sometimes, it can feel like an impossible dream. However, seeing these changing attitudes give me hope. If acceptance and equality can permeate a hyper-macho culture like the NFL, then you know things are changing. When the hip-hop community, long criticized for homophobic and misogynistic language and content openly praises an artist for his bisexuality, then we can point to tangible change for the better.
This isn’t to say that all the sudden we should all get complacent and stop working for change. Though at times it can feel like equality is hopeless, the reality is that change is happening all the time. If the members of the NFL and music industry can change their minds, why can’t everyone else?