Athlete Ally event welcomes former NFL player to discuss LGBT issues
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 23:10
Athletes, Blue Hen Leadership Program students and other members of the university community gathered in the Trabant Theater Thursday to listen to a discussion about awareness of homophobia in athletics. Brendon Ayanbadejo, former Baltimore Raven NFL player, Hudson Taylor, founder of the organization Athlete Ally and Laura Devenney, 2005 graduate and former member of the university’s Women’s Rugby Football Club, led the discussion.
“Being aware, being respectful, being accepting and being inclusive are some of the most important components of leadership,” said Susan Luchey, associate director of Student Centers for Student Leadership Development.
Luchey said the idea for the event came from a desire to bridge the gap between the queer community and athletics. She introduced the three panelists and explained how they have all contributed to the LGBT community.
The panelists gave suggestions to the students about how to become an ally, defined by the event page as someone who does not necessarily identify as LGBT but who supports and acts as a resource for those who do, in the LGBT community. They spoke about the importance of watching what words students use and how they could potentially be hurtful to others.
Freshman Sarah Kate Davidson-Catalano, a student attending the event, said she thought it was powerful to see a professional athlete share his opinion about these issues.
“A lot of people idealize athletes, and they can use this power to do good in the world and help others become more accepting,” Davidson-Catalano said.
The moderator, graduate student Christopher Volker, asked the panelists if the current sports culture is doing an effective job of modeling leadership. Ayanbadejo discussed the role of the media and its focus on the negative actions of professional athletes, instead of their philanthropic side. Taylor supported Ayanbadejo’s point when he said there is too much focus on athletic success rather than being successful athletes.
“If you can break records, score goals and run fast, then we focus on that disproportionately to the outside passions of many athletes,” Taylor said.
Ayanbadejo, Taylor and Devenney answered Volker’s questions about sports hot topics, such as how the Baltimore Ravens made a comeback in the last football season and the reinstating of wrestling in the 2020 Olympics.
LGBT issues were discussed as well, such as the anti-LGBT propaganda laws in Russia with the Olympics coming up this winter and how Athlete Ally is working to fight them.
Taylor said the organization is focusing their campaign on saying what they are for, rather than what they are against. They will be highlighting and rallying people around principle six of the Olympic Charter, which says discrimination of any kind is incompatible with the Olympic movement, he said.
Devenney offered advice for student athletes in terms of what they can take moving forward from the field to the classroom.
“I think the big thing that I learned was learning how to operate amongst all those different personalities and how to coexist,” Devenney said.
Before the panelists walked off stage and participated in smaller group discussions, Taylor said anyone can make a difference in helping stop homophobia, and it will take the power of the majority to protect the minority.
“Being an ally takes two seconds,” Taylor said. “Those two-second moments could change someone’s life.”
Nicole Rodriguez-Hernandez contributed reporting to this article.