UCLA football coach Jim Mora and other Bruins welcome gay athletes

Stephen Dunn

Mora and other Bruin coaches and athletes appear in new UCLA You Can Play video that premiered at Monday's campus athletic events. Half of the athletes say they played with a gay teammate.

UCLA has released a You Can Play video as part of their Athlete Allies initiative aimed at pushing homophobia out of campus sports programs. The lively new video features varsity coaches and athletes from about a dozen varsity sports, including head football coach Jim Mora and starting quarterback Brett Hundley.

On Monday, about a hundred coaches and 600 athletes attended discussions about combating homophobia in campus sports. Virtually all rec and varsity sports were represented, from softball and women's tennis to football and men's basketball. I moderated both panel discussions, which included: UCLA softball assistant coach Kirk Walker; former Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza; former MLB player Billy Bean; former Pac-10 soccer player of the year Tracey Milburn Bailey; You Can Play co-founder Brian Kitts; former rugger and StandUp co-founder Ben Cohen; Cal State Northridge assistant softball coach Caitlin Beny; and the 1999 Most Outstanding player of softball's College World Series, Julie Adams.

An interesting moment came when the athletes were asked how many of them knew a gay person. Every one of them raised their hands. When asked how many at one point had a gay teammate, half of the audience raised their hands. Currently, there are no publicly out athletes at UCLA.

While a scheduling conflict prevented his attendance, Mora told Outsports via phone that he is fully supportive of gay athletes.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. I don't judge people on their color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs. It doesn't matter to me."

He said an athlete coming out on the football team and in other sports would be well-received.

"In the locker room, in the meeting rooms, on the campus it's going to be something that isn't an issue," Mora said. "UCLA is a very tolerant campus for all different beliefs. Most college campuses are like that. There are guys like [gay-friendly NFL linebacker] Scott Fujita in every locker room. I can't say there won't be some tense moments, but these kids are very young and very tolerant. Sometimes they're ignorant, and it just takes them growing up and learning a little."

While there's no one in Mora's close circle of family and friends who's come out to him, he said two of his fraternity brothers from the University of Washington, and four members of his brother's fraternity, have come out of the closet since they left school.

While he has a very inclusive perspective on LGBT people, he says he has not yet addressed homophobia and gay players with the rest of his team.

""I talk to these kids about everything," he said. "There's nothing that's off-topic. But I haven't seen the opportunity yet. Maybe I need to be more observant. Maybe there are things being said that I don't hear. It's not that I'm afraid to talk about it or don't want to, it's just I haven't felt compelled to yet."

As for the NFL, where Mora spent 25 years as a coach and his father spent 30 years, he sees a landscape that would embrace an openly gay athlete.

"I can tell you at the NFL level, there's a lot less homophobia than people would ever imagine," Mora said. "People in the NFL judge their peers on what type of person they are. Are they a good person? A good teammate? And are they a teammate that can help them reach their goal and win games? A team is a melting pot of people from all different backgrounds and belief systems. People are from the south and east and west. You have black and white and Asian. And you have Catholics and Jews and atheists. Kids from single-parent families and kids from rich families. And when they get together, there's a tolerance that develops."

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