Former NFL player Wade A. Davis encouraged students to take political action, be an ally and love themselves in a lecture with ILR’s Ally Days on Monday.
Davis, executive director of You Can Play — a campaign dedicated to eradicating homophobia from sports — came out as gay in 2012.
“There is an assumption in sports that gay and lesbian players are shunned by all athletes,” reads the mission statement for Davis’s organization. “You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
On Monday, Davis centered his talk on a different vein of discrimination.
“Even though I have been named a feminist, I’ve got a confession for you guys,” he said. “I’m sexist. How can I not be?”
In order to combat the inherent sexism that has “poisoned” society, Davis urged the public to educate themselves by reading feminist thought.
“After we educate ourselves, the second thing we have to do is be deeply uncomfortable to own our shit,” he continued, highlighting that allyship is necessarily linked to owning discriminatory thoughts.
Davis also stressed the importance of standing up for others, even when it means losing friends who disagree.
“If there are people in your life who don’t want to evolve and stop using homophobic, racist, sexist, problematic language, you may have to lose those friends,” he said.
He further encouraged the audience to practice self-love, something he said he does through daily meditation.
The former defensive back entered his professional career with Tennessee Titans in 2000. He later was involved with the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks. Davis announced his sexuality nine years after leaving the NFL.
Davis, who battled his own insecurities during his football career, felt weighed down by the baggage of his own lack of confidence.
“I was in the prime of my life but I couldn’t enjoy it because I hated myself,” he admitted, urging a message about the importance of self-care.
“I implore you all, as you’re thinking about being an ally, be an ally to yourself,” he concluded.