This week, the Florida state legislature passed a bill that seeks to curtail discussion of gender and sexuality issues among younger students.
Dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, news of the legislation’s passage drew condemnations from LGBTQ leaders from coast to coast and inspired student protests and walk-outs throughout the state. Online activists organized a movement to boycott Disney after CEO Bob Chapek initially refused to speak out against the legislation.
Meanwhile, how did the sports world react? One or two levels above crickets. To this point, there have been only a handful of responses from LGBTQ athletes and straight allies.
While most of the bill’s text is awash in generalized language regarding “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children,” its most pertinent section is buried in the middle:
“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
In other words, Florida doesn’t want teachers facilitating conversation about our community in classrooms before the fourth grade, all but making us invisible during the school day. What’s more, any discussion of LGBTQ issues from that point on must fall under the vaguely worded (and undefined) categories of “age-appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate.”
If a student from kindergarten through third grade has gay parents or is bullied for being gay, Florida teachers have no recourse for addressing it under this legislation. What’s more, the bill enables parents to file suit against schools should they refuse to comply with this rule.
This section of the bill has galvanized LGBTQ and allied protesters, and with its likely passage into law, it’s vital to have as many people speaking out against it as possible. But thus far, it has drawn only a smattering of responses from the sports industry.
Gotham FC and USWNT power couple Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger are the most prominent athletes to speak out so far. Harris tweeted out her solidarity with student protesters during their walk-out:
So proud of these kids!!! We are with you! ️ https://t.co/wNZlUreKw2— Ashlyn Harris (@Ashlyn_Harris) March 4, 2022
Krieger, meanwhile, retweeted a call to action from MoveOn, supporting the students and spreading the hashtag #LetFreeFloridaSayGay. Harris and Krieger have several connections to Florida, as they were teammates for the Orlando Pride until 2022, got engaged in Clearwater, and married in Miami.
Transgender triathlete Chris Mosier also took to Twitter to remind his followers that there are tens of thousands of Floridians who have actively worked to try and stop passage of the bill:
This is another case of politics over people. It's power & positioning over the impact on the lives of the people the lawmakers are supposed to serve.— The Chris Mosier (@TheChrisMosier) March 8, 2022
I'm here in solidarity with every LGBTQ person in Florida, and every teacher and ally who cares. This is awful.
Four-time Olympic dressage medalist Robert Dover is the first LGBTQ athlete to compete at the Games while publicly out. Hailing from Florida, Dover made himself loud and clear in his message to DeSantis and the legislature:
As for allies, tennis star and Florida native Coco Gauff lent her support during the Indian Wells tennis tournament, telling reporters, “I’m against it. I think these conversations are important and for me, who has friends in the LGBTQ+ community, I couldn’t imagine not being able to talk about your identity. I feel that’s something that is normal.”
However, we’re still waiting to hear from other famous and usually outspoken names in LGBTQ sports like Jason Collins or Megan Rapinoe (although to be fair, they’ve both publicly pushed back against the recent anti-trans laws in Texas). Furthermore, there has been no response at all from any of Florida’s pro sports teams.
On Thursday, the Georgia state senate introduced its own “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Since these bills look like they’re becoming a new trend in our never-ending culture wars, anybody from the sports world who wants to speak up on behalf of LGBTQ kids would be most welcome to do so.
As soon as possible would be ideal.