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This week’s winners and losers in LGBTQ sports

Your weekly list of heroes and goats across LGBTQ sports, from Billie Jean King to the “Gay Footballer.”

Each week, Outsports stops the clock for an instant reply of the week that was. It’s our way of memorializing the glorious victories, the ignominious defeats, and the players and personalities who made them, lived them or just couldn’t avoid them.

We realize our roster may differ from yours, and we welcome your comments, contributions and critiques. We read them all! Details on how to reach us are below, after our look at the week’s winners and losers.

Winner: Odell Beckham, Jr.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he was not offended by people speculating that he is gay, a rumor that got turbocharged in 2015 when various Carolina Panthers used gay slurs against him in a game when he was with the New York Giants. In a wide-ranging interview with GQ, writer Mark Anthony Green asked Beckham about the speculation about his sexuality. Beckham never defined what his sexual orientation is, though I assume he is saying he is not gay, especially since he said earlier in the interview: “You never hear about the woman I’m dating or anything like that. And you won’t. I don’t need to give you that.”

Loser: The so-called Gay Footballer

The Twitter account @FootballerGay had garnered about 50,000 followers since he posted his initial message on July 5 that said he was a professional soccer player in the English Football League and would be coming out publicly. The Twitter account and its claims raised the hopes of many who believed that we would finally see another Championship or Premier League player on the pitch during matches. We haven’t seen one in over two decades. On Tuesday, he deleted the Twitter account. We have to now deal with the fact that this was, in all likelihood, never true. There is, of course, a slight chance that Gay Footballer really is a gay pro soccer player not yet in his prime who was thinking about coming out on July 24. Unlikely, but possible. It’s more possible it’s a gay athlete testing the waters. But most likely, sadly, it’s neither of those. As we at Outsports have said for years, male professional soccer players in England, and pro athletes across North America, will be widely accepted when they do come out, just as they all have been for the last decade. After 20 years of telling the coming-out stories of LGBTQ people in sports, if done well the next gay English pro soccer player to come out publicly will be embraced, as Cyd Zeigler laid out last year.

Winners: Long Beach City and Billie Jean King

The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously for a third time in favor of renaming the city’s newly built main library after lesbian tennis legend and feminist trailblazer Billie Jean King. Of the 20 people who reportedly spoke on the proposal were representatives of the Long Beach Century Club, LGBTQ advocates and the city’s tennis community, according to the562.org. King herself is expected to attend the library’s grand opening and dedication on Sept. 21. When we honored King for her “Stonewall Spirit,” we mentioned that she won 12 women’s Grand Slam titles (seventh-most of all time), won the Wimbledon title six times and also won 27 doubles and mixed-doubles Grand Slam titles, making her the third-most decorated player in Grand Slam history. She has also advocated for the equality of women, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities. In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Five years later, he named her to the Rio Games Olympic delegation to raise awareness about the worthiness of LGBTQ athletes.

Loser: Sean Spicer and the PawSox

We applaud the former White House press secretary for honoring our wounded veterans and being part of a foundation that provided a new all-terrain wheelchair to retired Marine and Iraq War veteran Carlos Lopes. But we cannot ignore his disregard for the fact that on the night he made the presentation, the Pawtucket Red Sox were celebrating Pride Night. And the Rhode Island Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox erred in honoring Spicer on that particular night by having him throw out the first pitch, given his role in the Trump administration’s horrible record on LGBTQ rights.

Winner: ESPN’s Taylor Twellman

The crowd chanted the homophobic slur “puto” Tuesday night when the Galaxy hosted Tijuana at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., in the Leagues Cup match aired by ESPN. And in the ESPN broadcast booth, a former U.S. Men’s National Team player and Major League Soccer MVP with the New England Revolution decided to speak out against the chant. He’s Taylor Twellman, lead soccer analyst for the network. And when he spoke out, it was not for the first time. Travis Yoesting of the18.com wrote: “ESPN’s Taylor Twellman railed against the ‘puto’ chant, which was heard many times as the LA Galaxybeat Tijuana in the Leagues Cup.” Fans on Twitter joined-in to denounce the chant. But still MLS and the Galaxy allow it to continue, as does FIFA at their matches.

Loser: Andre Arlovski

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski of Belarus apologized for a homophobic slur he used Saturday night, during a post-match interview at the UFC on ESPN 4 card in San Antonio, Tex. Following his win by unanimous decision over former International Fighting League champion American Ben Rothwell (36-12 overall MMA, 6-6 in the UFC), who entered the bout sporting a 13-match win streak, Arlovski snapped at critics who have questioned his ability to take punishment during his recent slump. “Once again I will tell everyone shut your fucking mouths about my ‘glass chin,’ so go fuck yourself, faggots,” Arlovski stated. “That’s it. I proved to everyone you’re fucking wrong.” A statement of apology to MMA Junkie came the next day. Arlovski said, “I apologize to anyone I offended with my poor choice of words. I did not mean to offend any one group or person. I am deeply sorry and will not use these type of words in the future.” The UFC also issued a statement to MMA Junkie, acknowledging Arlovski’s anti-gay choice of words, which is in violation of the UFC Code of Conduct.

Winners: The St. Louis Cardinals and their LGBTQ fans

The Cardinals hosted their third annual Pride Night on Friday, July 26, against the defending AL West Champion Houston Astros. The team hosted a pregame party in Busch Stadium’s Budweiser Terrace. The Gateway Men’s Chorus performed “God Bless America” and all fans who purchased a Pride Night theme ticket received a Cards rainbow tank top. St. Louis’s brief history with Pride Night got off to a rocky start in 2017 when the Cardinals hastily scheduled their first one in the wake of an uproar surrounding former outfielder and current transphobe Lance Berkman’s participation in the team’s Christian Day ceremony. Outsports writer Erik Hall was denied credentials to cover that game, so he bought a ticket. It was the first time Outsports was denied a media credential in its 17-year history, according to co-founder Jim Buzinski.

Winners: Out Olympians

When the Olympics Opening Ceremony takes place in Tokyo in one year, there will be a record number of out athletes competing, and the field of athletes is already starting to take shape. We know that out world champion Tom Daley will be representing Great Britain. It will be the fourth Olympics for Daley, who came out as gay several years ago. We also know that the women’s soccer teams of Brazil, New Zealand, Netherlands and Sweden have all officially qualified. All of them had out women on their roster at the Women’s World Cup earlier this summer. Given the increase in out athletes in Olympic sports over the last decade, an increase in out athletes in 2020 of 110% over 2016 would be modest. That modest increase would mean that 117 athletes would be publicly out at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. For the betting public, we’d put 117 as your over/under.

Winners: Married out athletes in the news

Pro wrestlers Kiera Hogan and Diamante announced they are in a relationship. Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky, who wed in December, are playing on opposing teams in the WNBA All-Star Game. And Lauren Ford shared with us the story of her wedding to her wife Emery, and how her former college tennis teammates made it an extra special day:

“On June 8, 2019, the love of my life, Emery Ford, became my wife. It was the most perfect, beautiful wedding in Columbia, South Carolina, with all of our family and friends in attendance. Of all the attendees, 13 of them were particularly special — they were my former college teammates from my time playing Division I women’s tennis at Wofford College. Jokingly renaming my wedding the “Tennis Team Reunion,” my teammates cried tears of joy as I walked down the aisle, took endless photos of me twirling in my dress, and carried the party into the night on the dance floor. Looking back, it’s hard to believe just four years prior I was hiding my relationship with Emery from them, doubting whether they would still support me if they knew I was gay.”

Winners: Scott MacArthur and James O’Leary

Toronto Blue Jays radio broadcaster Scott MacArthur came out as gay in a YouTube video, stating that he has been suicidal as recently as a few weeks ago and that he was encouraged to come out by a transgender female sports blogger and a gay platonic friend. In the video, he announced, “I’m a gay man and I have lived burdened by this secret for a very long time and ... I’m doing [this video] in an attempt to alleviate my pain.”

James “Stress” O’Leary, the former League of Legends European Championship (LEC) caster was the voice of Europe’s top League of Legends organization before leaving the booth for a position with LEC participant Splyce. But his enthusiastic calls and infectious personality masked his struggle to be out publicly to his audience. O’Leary is gay, and esports has a history of being less than accepting of LGBTQ communities. He told Brian C. Bell in a wide-ranging interview: “A lot of the hate isn’t coming from people who are completely ignorant to it. They know it’s going to hurt, and they know that they can get away with it online.”

Winners: Our out athletes of the week: David Melly and Avery Saffold

In this week’s Being Out feature, David Melly fondly recalled his Cornell University track and field team as “our merry band of weirdos.” Alone as an openly gay athlete when he joined the cross country and track and field teams in 2011, Melly was pleased that in his senior season three of the five top runners identified as LGBTQ. It was also probably not coincidental that Cornell that year had the highest placing in a decade at Heps (Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track & Field Championships).

In his Coming Out story on Outsports, Amherst rising senior Avery Saffold felt he had to live up to an image of being a black athlete from the city. Then he decided to be himself, and was re-elected team captain after coming out:

“Although being an athlete is something that has provided me with much happiness and an escape from reality, it is only a fraction to the complete whole of who I am. In the final years of high school and into college I realized I am much more than that: I am a student, a son, a brother, and I am gay. Being a black man from the south side of Chicago has bred me in a certain way. Boys are taught to be tough and have a “dog” mentality. We are taught that no one is better than us and everything is a competition... Since coming out, it has meant the world to me to receive countless texts that commend me for being the person I truly want to be. They have shown me that I don’t have to be subject to certain stereotypes just because I play football and that it is beautiful to be unique. I hope to be another voice confirming that there are others like us. We are not alone. I want black athletes to know that you can be your full self and be a leader in your sport no matter where you’re from. The biggest hurdle to get over in my journey was fearing myself. If your friends and family truly love and support you, they will be there for you no matter what.”

That’s all for this week! We’ll bring you a fresh list of winners and losers next Saturday. Got a name we missed, or want to challenge our choices? Comment here or on Facebook or Instagram, tweet at us, message us via any social media, or just plain email us at outsports@gmail.com Thanks!