While athletes have led the fight for social rights in the past, this battle represents the fans’ turn to lead

By Cyd Zeigler jr.

Last week was the 40th anniversary of the black power salute of the Mexico City Olympics. In case you didn’t know, it is regarded as one of the strongest political statements ever made at the quadrennial games. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, both of the United States, finished first and third in the 200-meter race at the Games. As the two men approached the podium to accept their medals, they walked shoeless but wearing black socks to represent black poverty. And as the Star-Spangled Banner played in their honor, they both bowed their heads and raised their fists in a show of solidarity with the struggles of black Americans.
It was a powerful moment. So powerful that both Smith and Carlos were shunned by much of white American society. They knew it was coming. They knew that jobs would be tough to get from white employers after their demonstration; And they were. Death threats came to them and their families. But the demonstration they made that day became a seminal moment in the struggle for minority rights and a source of great inspiration for many black Americans.
These two brave men are part of a long history of black athletes making statements about racial equality in sports. Jack Johnson opened eyes in the early 1900s as the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World. Jesse Owens did it in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics. Jackie Robinson made waves in pro baseball.
Yet in sports, we are still waiting for gay athletes to step up and help the cause of gay rights. Gay pro athletes in this country stay in the closet. They decide that their bank accounts outweigh the importance of equal rights for gay Americans. They choose to have sex and have same-sex relationships quietly, yet when it comes time to stand up for their own rights, they stay quiet for their own temporary personal gain.
If they were ever going to come out and help advance gay rights, this would be the time, with the most important gay-rights battle raging in California. Yet they stay quiet. Every one of them. I will continue to respect their wishes to remain quietly gay as I will not out them, but I cannot respect them as people any longer. Their silence doesn’t just hurt themselves, but now it is hurting other gay people who could desperately use their voices.
There is a battle going on in California over the validity of our relationships. There is a group of people who claim that two men or two women do not deserve the recognition that heterosexual relationships deserve. They say that the California Supreme Court got it wrong, and gay relationships and the children in those relationships do not deserve protection by the state. They are being joined by people in sports who have come out against same-sex marriage rights.
And professional athletes stay quiet and keep their private lives in the closet.
We at Outsports will not.
We hope it’s a no-brainer that we individually are all vehemently against Proposition 8 in California, which would nullify same-sex marriages already entered into and would prohibit them going forward, putting discrimination in the California State Constitution. And we encourage all of our readers to do everything they can to support the efforts to fight against Prop 8. Many people, like San Diego Charger Jacques Cesaire, are raising money and encouraging voters to support the discriminatory proposition. And we simply can’t sit by and do nothing.
What can you do?
1) You can vote. If you’re a California resident, make sure you Vote No on Proposition 8.
2) You can encourage others to vote. Call and write every California voter you know to make sure they vote on election day, and make sure they Vote No on Proposition 8.
3) Donate money. There are several organizations that are running campaigns against Proposition 8. The two we have personally donated to:
Equality California
National Center for Lesbian Rights
People who don’t understand gay people and gay relationships are giving this fight everything they have. Some of them are dipping into retirement funds to support the fight against our relationships. While we wouldn’t encourage anyone to do that, we hope every Outsports reader will do something to fight Proposition 8. Our rights literally across the country depend on this fight.
And maybe, when this battle is over and more and more states find the will to respect our relationships, some of those closeted pro athletes will come out of the closet. Athletes have long helped society make social advances; Maybe this battle is our chance to return the favor.