Almost as deeply as he's fought for gay civil rights, Mixner bleeds silver and black
Few gay-rights activists have a more colorful and impactful history than David Mixner (just ask his old pal, former President Bill Clinton). He was a founding member of the nation's first gay Political Action Committee, got then-California-Governor Ronald Reagan to oppose a ballot measure that would have prohibited gay people from being school teachers, and led gay efforts to get Clinton elected before he then protested the President's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
I got the great opportunity to spend an afternoon and evening with Mixner last August at his home in the Catskills. There isn't a more gracious, gregarious host than Mixner. Regaling us of stories of the Clinton Administration, his work in Africa, getting arrested and settling in in the mountains of New York, he returned over and over again to his love of sports. So when we were deciding whom we would feature in a new series of interviews with popular and influential gay people who happened to be sports fans, Mixner was an easy choice.
As Jim told me years ago when we first started Outsports, Mixner has been a fan of the Oakland (and Los Angeles) Raiders for years; he was as open and brash about it while in Los Angeles as you'd expect from any Raiders fan. But his sports fandom goes much deeper than black and silver, as I've learned . . .
Mixner on a trip to Africa
David Mixner's favorite . . .
Favorite MLB team: New York Mets
David Mixner: The clear answer to this question is just one simple word - endorsements. I also believe that many professional athletes skipped college,where they might have gained access to more social activism, and went directly into a sports league.
Outsports: Are there any athletes you feel have taken a position on gay rights that is particularly positive or honorable?
Mixner: Yes there has been some. The names don't jump out at me this moment. That should tell you something about the degree of their outspokenness. Some have had relatives that are members of the LGBT community and that has motivated them.
Outsports: When they've come out, some athletes (like John Amaechi and Esera Tuaolo) have become ambassadors for gay rights. Others, like Sheryl Swoopes, haven't taken the mantel. Do you think athletes who come out have a responsibility to help advance gay rights?
Mixner: The thrill of seeing of an open athlete step to the fore and meet his responsibility to the LGBT community is incredible. One would hope there would be more and more of them. While I love seeing them step “out," I do respect any individual’s right to live their own life path whether they are "in or out".
Outsports: How important would it be to you personally, and to gay people in general, for a top-level team athlete to come out in the U.S. while he was still playing?
Mixner: This is one of the last great barriers that exist for the LGBT community. A large number of female athletes have come out and many men in swimming, tennis, skating, etc…. We need our Jackie Robinson. A player who comes out of the closet, who is amazingly talented and who is still playing. It will convince every young man and woman who is gay that they can play their dream sports and be open. It is critical that this happen soon.
Outsports: I've long thought that sports is the perfect breeding ground for political leaders because of the development of leadership skills, teamwork, competition, etc.... Do you think there's any validity to that?
Mixner: Not sure it translates that well but we have had some run successfully for office. Jim Bunning went from his perfect game in Connie Mack right into being a Republican Senator from Kentucky. More tend to lose their races than win them when they run and I believe that is because of the unfair image of a "dumb jock.”
Outsports: What are your first memories of sports as a fan?
Mixner: Without question, the Philadelphia Phillies playing at old Connie Mack Stadium. There were such great players as Richie Allen and the aforementioned Jim Bunning. I got to see Bunning pitch a perfect game and that was simply amazing.
Outsports: Did you ever play sports?
Mixner: Loved playing football and still wish I could get a good game of touch going without making a fool of myself. Never will forget our high school game my senior year when we finally defeated our arch enemy after losing to them for years. The euphoria of that moment was incredible.
Outsports: What were your favorite memories of Arizona State sports while you were there? Any since you left that stand out to you as really memorable from the Sun Devils?
Mixner: To this day I am a huge Sun Devil fan and follow their baseball, basketball and football schedules religiously. My first love was a team member playing football. Who can forget that as the most unforgettable experience? Of course, Reggie Jackson was playing baseball when I was attending the University. Talk about good baseball! Recently the Sun Devils in the Rose Bowl was a dream come true!
Outsports: When did you first fall in love with the Oakland Raiders?
Mixner: When they were first moved from Southern California to Oakland by owner Al Davis. I was watching a game and realized that there wasn't a player on the team that any mother would want to be a role model for their son. They were the bad boys of football and loved them for it.
Outsports: Since their loss in the Super Bowl in 2003, they have been a franchise in freefall. Why do you think that is?
Mixner: No mystery here. Cheap owner, poor coaching and the team has gotten too goody goody. Grin.
Outsports: What were your feelings last autumn as the Mets began and completed an unprecedented fall from grace?
Mixner: First of all it took me back to the days when the Phillies blew their chances for the pennant in the final month. I think it was 1964 but not sure. Second, I was devastated. If there is any team I get crazy about these days it is the New York Mets. Third, all I wanted to do was comfort David Wright.
Outsports: Who are some of the higher-profile sports personalities you've crossed paths with?
Mixner: Interestingly, I have met very few players. Had the honor of meeting Billy Bean and Greg Louganis. While I have met amazing people in politics, government, international affairs and entertainment, I have hardly met sports stars. Guess I am the classic loud fan in the far bleachers!
Outsports: Your favorite football player is Brady Quinn. Place yourself 15 years from now looking back; What will Brady Quinn's legacy have been?
Mixner: My man Brady Quinn is going to take the Cleveland Browns to the Super Bowl and put Tom Brady to shame! Eli who?