This weekend the Univ. of Maine men’s basketball team will travel to North Carolina to play against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The significance of the trip to the state that has enacted the anti-LGBT HB2 law was not lost on the school, the America East Conference or head coach Bob Walsh. While other teams and sporting events have pulled out of the state, the Black Bears are going at it from a different direction.
On Thursday the team met virtually with trans athlete and activist Chris Mosier, whose success in the duathlon in particular has driven policy changes across sports and created awareness of trans issues, particularly in sports. Mosier is part of the You Can Play project, which has a partnership with America East (of which Maine is a member).
“This is a great opportunity for the athletes to step up as leaders,” Mosier said. “I really appreciate that they are turning this into an educational opportunity and an opportunity to be active allies to the LGBTQ community.”
Walsh called Mosier’s interactions with his team “tremendous” on Twitter. In addition to the conversations with Mosier, the team will also meet with an LGBT student group while they are at Duke.
“We are planning on having a short meeting when we get in for our practice on Friday night to talk about what challenges they face on campus and how male athletes on campus can help foster an environment of inclusion,” Walsh told Outsports.
The team will also wear T-shirts with the America East logo in rainbow colors to demonstrate support for the community.
Walsh has spoken out publicly in the past about the need for education and understanding between the sports world and the LGBT community.
“I've known Bob for 20 years, and as a young coach he was a role model,” out gay high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo said. “He gets it and understands being authentic is the most productive way to live. I’m not surprised at all that he is preaching inclusion and supporting the LGBT community.”
While some coaches may be concerned about the on-court repercussions of infusing a high-profile trip like this with a bunch of social-justice issues, Walsh find these efforts to be an integral part of coaching.
“This hasn't become a distraction at all. I have absolutely no concerns about that. It hasn't taken away from our preparation in any way. It's a great opportunity to teach our guys and have a positive impact on an important issue.
“As far as I'm concerned, it's part of the coaching that goes into this game.”
While Mosier supports impacting the state of North Carolina financially with moving events out of the state, he also recognizes that games are going to be played in the state. He thinks Maine has set the bar for how to move forward.
“If teams are going to continue to play games in North Carolina, this is certainly the model I hope others will look to as an example of how it should be done.”
At 2-5 the Black Bears have their work cut out for them on the court as they visit Duke, sitting at 6-1 and ranked No. 5 in the nation.