On June 25, pro lacrosse player Paul Rabil posted to Instagram for his 219,000 followers a pro-LGBT pride message in honor of New York’s pride celebration.
While the post has racked up almost 11,000 likes, some of the messages were very anti-gay, as this screencap Rabil posted shows:
Rabil, who plays for the New York Lizards and the U.S. national team, was so disturbed by these comments that he wrote a column for the HuffPo asserting that it was time for straight allies in sports to speak up.
When the Instagram commentary began, I started having flashbacks to my adolescent sports days, particularly the “locker room talk” that occurred. There was gender, racial, religious and sexual orientation epithets flung around, pseudo-protectively labeled as “trash talk” between opponents.
When I was younger, I was insecure, was emotionally reactive, and would occasionally participate in this form of “trash talk.” It’s unfair and hurtful. I deeply regret it.
In men’s sports culture there’s so much pressure to be an alpha male — to be the toughest guy in the room. I’ve learned toughness and trash talk are not mutually inclusive. You can be an assertive leader, work hard, stand up for your teammates, and do so with integrity, courage, and empathy.
Rabil does a great job using statistics on cyberbullying, suicide and LGBT sports participation to urge people not to remain silent. “No matter your sexual orientation, gender, race, religious affiliation or political views, people are people, and love is love. Tearing others down is never helpful. Building others up, is,” he writes.
While nothing is more important than for LGBT people in sports to come out, we also need allies like Rabil who will have their back and be vocal, not only in their support but against anyone who professes hate.