UPDATE: When a professional sports team makes a video, do attitudes really change?

itgetsbetter49ersUpdate: Outsports reports on the action by “It Gets Better” to remove the video from their official roster. “We don’t want videos of people who didn’t realize what they were doing,” project founder Dan Savage told Outsports. “It’s a project specifically aimed at LGBT kids and their unique need for support and role models.”

An article in USA Today makes us wonder if the strategy adopted by many organizations and promoted by many foes of homophobia in sport is the right tack. 

In the article, two players from the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who particpated in a ground-breaking ” Gets Better” video declare that they were not aware that the video was about LGBT youth.

 

Here’s an extract:

 

NEW ORLEANS — When four members of the San Francisco 49ers made an anti-bullying video in August for the “It Gets Better Project,” they were hailed as trail blazers — big, strong athletes in a game bathed in testosterone and homophobia, who were prepared to take on the narrow minds of the NFL locker rooms.

But two of the players who took part in the video — linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga — strangely denied making the video. Then, when shown the video, they said they didn’t realize the aim of the production was to fight the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens.

Keep reading here.

 

So what do we make of this? Many of the clubs making “It Gets Better” videos do so as a result of petitions. The choice to participate in the initiative was clearly a top-down decision, made with good intentions, but did not represent the feelings or opinions of the athletes they feature. 

In the case of “It Gets Better”, the logic of pro teams making videos has never been clear; the whole point of IGB is adult LGBT people sending a message of hope to youth, based on their personal experience. “You Can Play” is probably a more meaningful action: but there too, the words need to be sincere, and not the result of an order from head office. 

Social pressure is important for fighting unacceptable behaviors like homophobia. But it takes time for it to work. Should we invest so many hopes in the actions of professional sports teams? 

There’s not just one place to fight homophobia in sport. But the contributions of LGBT sport, of the participation of thousands of athletes in sporting clubs and events, whether specific to the LGBT community or part of mainstream sport, are changing hearts and minds around the world. They may not be as glamorous, but they are deserving of praise and recognition. 

Allies are important, but perhaps they only count when their commitment comes from a personal decision, not from the head office. All things considered, it might be better to see a professional sports team host an LGBT day than require its players to make a video they don’t understand.

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