January 22, 2014

EDITORIAL: Encouraging Tolerance For LGBT Athletes

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Although there has been some positive change in the environment for LGBT athletes in both professional and collegiate sports, the persistence of discrimination has been a subject of some recent news coverage. In a story for CNN this month, Hudson Taylor — founder and executive officer of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that aims to help end homophobia and bullying in athletics — said that while he was an athlete at the University of Maryland, there was an “intolerant culture” towards LGBT athletes. In the past year, many athletic organizations have taken strides to reverse this culture, including Cornell students, who have started their own chapter of Athlete Ally. We praise those students who are working to make the athletic community more inclusive, and we encourage the University to provide institutional support to help the students follow through on this initiative.

In August, varsity soccer player Atticus DeProspo ’15 founded the Cornell chapter of Athlete Ally. DeProspo told The Sun in November that the goal of creating this chapter was “to bridge a gap between the LGBT community and the athletic community to make them environments where both communities feel more welcomed, safe and respected.” In creating this group, DeProspo and members of Athlete Ally took an important step to publicize this important issue and address LGBT-specific problems in the athletic community.

Student groups have long advocated LGBT tolerance across campus. Haven has actively worked to provide support to the LGBT community, and the Greek community has implemented its own Ally program. Athlete Ally is another contribution to this positive trend. But in other areas of campus life, the University has made a conscious effort beyond student initiatives to institutionalize an attitude of tolerance, such as performing same-sex ceremonies at Sage Chapel and creating gender-inclusive housing.

Chartering the Athlete Ally chapter at Cornell is a great first step, and a good example of students’ efforts, but we believe the University can still become more directly involved in supporting their activism and ensuring that the athletic community at Cornell is a tolerant and respectful one. For example, bolstering support structures such as advising for LGBT athletes who feel stigmatized would show that the University fully stands behind them. To encourage an inclusive environment, and especially following the success of similar initiatives across campus, the University should ensure it extends the same institutional support to the LGBT athletic community.