It isn’t every day that two out male athletes face off at the highest level in their respective sport. When they do, it’s worth taking the time to celebrate.
Canadian curlers John Epping and Greg Smith squared off Tuesday at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, Canada’s national men’s curling championship. Every providence and territory is represented with its own team: Epping is the skipper of Team Ontario, and Smith is a member of Newfoundland/Labrador.
While Epping’s team won the game 9-4, the post-match photo op was the most significant moment of the affair — at least for LGBTQ sports fans.
Epping and Smith held up the rainbow flag, signifying that LGBTQ Pride was the true victor of their affair.
Great moment with my friend and fellow competitor @EppingJohn as two openly 2SLGBTQIA skips played against one another today!— Greg Smith (@gregsmithnl) March 10, 2021
Proudly showing who we are on and off the ice. ️
No matter who you are, you can play any sport or do anything at the highest level! pic.twitter.com/hEjnu1OXLQ
Epping’s club is the No. 2-ranked curling team in the world, and scored bronze at the 2018 Brier. He publicly came out as gay in 2012, and says he was embraced around the sport.
“I would say I was very, very lucky and spoiled,” Epping said in 2017 about his positive coming-out process. “I hope it would be that way for everybody, but I know it’s not. I know we still have a long way to come in sports in general.”
Other sports leagues could learn from Canadian curling, which fosters an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. There are multiple out players in the male ranks, including Team Saskatchewan’s Dustin Kidby, who competed with Brier at the 2020 Brier.
Smith, meanwhile, says he was originally met with mixed reactions when he came out as bisexual. His goal is to improve people’s understanding of bisexuality, and judging by the overwhelmingly positive reactions to his photo with Epping, he’s doing exactly that.
“Really, I would love people to understand that bisexuals do exist,” he said in 2017. “They’re out there, they’re your friends, they’re your neighbors, they’re your cousins, they’re everybody. We have so many types of sexualities, and each one of them is legitimate.”