By M. Alexander
Upon the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2008, many claimed that this was the final indicator that our nation had moved beyond Plessy, Jim Crow, and Ole Miss—that we finally live in a post-racist nation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Bigotry still seeps through the underbelly of our country, from Neo-Nazis to satellite groups of a fledgling Ku Klux Klan.
But in many ways, overt racism is now a thing of the past. Equal opportunity laws make it clear that nobody is to be denied employment based upon race, color, or creed. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of professional sports. Though the NBA and the NFL have integrated black, white, brown, and yellow—a new plague of segregation has arisen from the ashes of past battles. In the locker rooms of professional sports, where racism has been silenced, homophobia now whispers. In a world that promotes the male ego and misogyny, athletes are ostracized if they come out of the closet. The ethics of machismo far outweigh the value of inclusion.
This is why I was drawn to an organization named “Athlete Ally.” Its mission is to “encourage all individuals involved in sports to respect every member of their communities, regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and to lead others in doing the same.” Last week, Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried joined the organization. Raised by two lesbian mothers, Faried is now doing his part to erase the stigma of homosexuality in professional sports.
Athlete Ally is just one organization and Kenneth Faried is just one man. But together, they are part of the redemption of professional sports. As role models for our nation’s children, athletes are an integral piece in the country’s movement toward complete equality.