Out magazine has just released it's list of the 50 most powerful LGBT people in America, and this year they've included two professional athletes for the first time ever.
NFL prospect Michael Sam, who came out publicly in February to what is (in my humble opinion) one of the two most-hyped coming outs in history (along with Ellen Degeneres, who is No. 1 on the list), is listed as the ninth most powerful LGBT American. While he hasn't played a snap in the NFL, the potential he has is massive. His coming out has already generated a national conversation and pushed the NFL and other leagues to ramp up their inclusion policies. I wrote a piece to accompany Out's list that talks about why Sam is the most powerful LGBT athlete in America now, largely because of the place football and the NFL hold in our culture.
Giving him a run for his money, though, is Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who comes in at No. 31. Griner has become a cultural powerhouse in the last year, writing a powerful memoir with Sue Hovey, locking up a big endorsement deal with Nike and becoming a face of not just the WNBA but of women's sports. Plus, her refusal to conform to societal norms for women with her dress and tattoos has made her a hero to so many young boys and girls who feel just a little bit different.
The naming of these two athletes is another signal of a culture shift in the LGBT community. Both athletes were listed ahead of selections from entertainment like RuPaul Charles, Frank Ocean and Dustin Lance Black; The likes of Anderson Cooper, Jane Lynch and HRC's Chad Griffin took a backseat to Sam. This. Is. Huge. It signals that the community is finally recognizing the power of sports in our movement and the ability of LGBT professional athletes to have not just cultural impact but also business success.
Kudos to Aaron Hicklin and his team at Out magazine for getting this right.