Trash-talking and machismo have always been fixtures of competitive sports. But a growing chorus of athletes and sports executives is trying to combat the darker side of that culture: anti-gay slurs and homophobia. Howard Ross discusses the culture of sport, and we meet a straight athlete working to build gay-straight support networks.

Guests

  • Howard Ross Diversity consultant; Principal, Cook Ross
  • Hudson Taylor Founder, Athlete Ally; former All-American Wrestler, University of Maryland

Transcript

  • 13:06:41

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Howard Ross is here.

  • 13:07:00

    MR. KOJO NNAMDILater in the broadcast, a dictator's daughter versus a former military strongman, how Peru's contentious presidential election may affect Washington. But first, combating homophobia and reprogramming macho culture in sports.

  • 13:07:14

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhen the discipline came, it was quick and it was expensive. This spring basketball star, Kobe Bryant, was caught on television using anti-gay slur towards a referee. He was immediately slapped with a $100,000 fine. Weeks later a different player on a different team was caught using the same word. He was slapped with a $50,000 fine.

  • 13:07:36

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's a sign of slow, but steady evolution in American sports culture. Team front offices see such incidents as threats to their bottom line, but advocates say it will take much more than steep fines to address homophobia in sports.

  • 13:07:51

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIA focus on amateur and college programs, a new look at what values we teach young people about sport and competition. And joining us to have that conversation is Howard Ross, diversity consultant and business coach principal at the corporate consulting firm, Cook Ross. Howard, always a pleasure.

  • 13:08:08

    MR. HOWARD ROSSYes, Kojo, good to be back.

  • 13:08:09

    NNAMDIJoining Howard in studio today is Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, a non-profit that focuses on ridding sport of homophobia and trans-phobia. He's a former All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland, currently a wrestling coach at Columbia University. Hudson Taylor, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:08:29

    MR. HUDSON TAYLORThanks for having me.

  • 13:08:30

    NNAMDIHudson, you've had a pretty successful athletic career. An All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland, now a wrestling coach at Columbia and you're straight. I only mention that because you have become a well-known advocate for gay rights. Tell us about Athlete Ally?

  • 13:08:47

    TAYLORSo about this past December, I started this non-profit called Athlete Ally with really just a simple goal in mind, to educate and empower the straight allies in sports to speak out against homophobia. Because, you know, I've heard a lot of people talk, you know, what's it going to take to change the athletic culture?

  • 13:09:08

    TAYLORPeople say that it's going to take a professional athlete to come out, but I think that that can only happen when the straight allies start showing their support in a vocal, visible way. So that's really what I'm trying to do in high schools, in colleges and hopefully that will translate up onto the professional fields.

  • 13:09:28

    NNAMDIWe'd like to invite you to join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. What kinds of lessons do you think young people get from professional sports or sports in general when it comes to issues of sexuality? 800-433-8850. Howard, we've talked about sports before. In many ways, sports reflect our culture, the good and the bad.

  • 13:09:51

    NNAMDIPublic opinion polling has shown that American attitudes toward the lesbian, gay and transgender community is changing, is evolving and becoming more accepting. And even though we don't yet have any big name sports stars who have come out of the closest it seems that the professional and amateur sports leagues might be evolving as well.

  • 13:10:10

    ROSSWell, I think that's happening. Kojo, before we go there I just want to say, you know, I have so much admiration for what Hudson is doing. Because, you know, it's one thing for me as a diversity consultant to be out here advocating for equal rights, it's something else when you're playing in a sport where, when somebody's pissed off that you do something like this they can especially try to break your arm.

  • 13:10:28

    ROSSAnd I mean that seriously. Like, people like Hudson or Scott Fujita, the NFL player who's done some -- has been very similarly at as an ally and it's just -- it makes such a huge difference and it takes an enormous amount of courage so thank you, Hudson, for the work you've been doing.

  • 13:10:41

    TAYLORThank you.

  • 13:10:42

    ROSSI think that, you know, what we're beginning to see, Kojo, is a combination of a generational shift. And also a shift that's happening because at amateur level of course, there's a lot more control over people participating. Now, of course, I'm talking mostly on a lower level amateur.

  • 13:11:00

    ROSSWhen you get up to the high level of amateur you're still dealing with, you know, a business environment where you're talking about high-level athletes. But when you're talking about young people who are coming in now and we've talked about this, you know, numerous times.

  • 13:11:13

    ROSSI really believe that, you know, 15 years, 20 years from now we're going to look back at how we are right now, today, about LGT issues and we're going to kind of say to ourselves what we say now about 1963 Mississippi, you know, what were we thinking? And I think a lot of young people are in that place.

  • 13:11:27

    ROSSThe real challenge is, particularly in sports like wrestling or football or sports where you have a lot of physical contact is all of those feelings of kind innate homophobia that are in people come up very strongly. Because it's one thing for me look at you across the room and say it's fine for you being who I am, it's something else when I'm wearing a singlet and wrestling and I got to wrap my body around yours and all the stuff that comes up around that.

  • 13:11:48

    ROSSSo it's particularly challenging, not just in terms of the things you were talking about, about the comments that people make and the things that they say. But also in understanding kind of the inner-world of the athlete and what they're dealing with inter-personally around that.

  • 13:12:01

    NNAMDIHudson, you care to talk about that yourself?

  • 13:12:04

    TAYLORYes, I mean growing up as an athlete it's a major part of my identity, who I am, how I see myself and I think because I was involved with a sport like wrestling, you know, contact-based sports do have some further obstacles that they need to overcome because, you know, I'm in close contact with somebody when I'm 11, 12 years old, I'm figuring out who I am and I know that there's a lot of insecurity in athletics.

  • 13:12:32

    TAYLORSo, you know, I felt growing up as an athlete that there was always a very strong push for me to conform to certain masculine gender scripts right. And I think that one of the major obstacles that we need to overcome in athletics is redefining what it means to be masculine, what means to be a successful athlete.

  • 13:12:52

    TAYLORYou know, not placing so much emphasis on athletic success and just, you know, trying to let athletes and individuals know that, you know, you don't have to be straight to be strong. You don't have to be, you know, we don't have to fit into these well-defined boxes in order to be successful. People and athletes and, you know, that's something that I'm trying to do and I think that we are a time when people's ears are listening and they're ready to make a difference.

  • 13:13:26

    NNAMDIYou know, I am old enough to remember when the former welterweight champion of the world, Emile Griffith, fought another boxer named Benny 'Kid' Paret and Benny 'Kid' Paret taunted Emile Griffith before the fight that he was gay. The word had been out that Emile Griffith was gay and Benny 'Kid' Paret taunted him at the weigh-in before the fight.

  • 13:13:48

    NNAMDIEmile Griffith beat Benny 'Kid' Paret so badly...

  • 13:13:50

    ROSSHe almost killed him.

  • 13:13:50

    NNAMDI...that he died. He actually did died. And it turned out later on that Emile Griffith did turn out to be gay. But when you talk about close contact sports and how that kind of taunt can really be a big -- can have an effect on people who are involved in it. That was one of the more stunning examples that I remember in my own lifetime.

  • 13:14:11

    ROSSAnd Kojo, you're pointing to something, too, that's at the heart of this. And I think what Hudson's talking about when you talk about young people who are in their developmental stages. You know, that story's a great example. We've seen it so many times in public life, in politics, where the person who's the greatest, you know, homophobic crusader is the one who we find having an affair with, you know, a 16-year-old page or 18-year-old or something like this and that there's something that happens in the psyche when we've got a part of ourselves that's fundamental to who we are that we're struggling with and we're denying at some level.

  • 13:14:45

    ROSSAnd somebody accuses us of that or somebody represents that, that that becomes particularly variant out there. And on one hand we can look at somebody like Emile Griffith or some of the politicians who we're talking about, I forget that -- what's the guy's name from Florida -- Mark -- I forget it offhand, but, you know, who I'm talking about, the congressman.

  • 13:15:01

    ROSSWe can look at those and obviously react to the hypocrisy of it, but there's something even larger there, which is that the fact that people feel the need to do that is a function of the fact that we live in a society in which people are not accepted for who they are and various people react to that lack of acceptance by going into hiding, both consciously and also unconsciously in a lot of cases.

  • 13:15:21

    ROSSAnd so it's a bigger societal system -- systemic issue that's contributing to that more than just a couple of bad people who are doing bad things.

  • 13:15:28

    NNAMDITalking about Congressman Mark Foley.

  • 13:15:29

    ROSSFoley, thank you.

  • 13:15:30

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Are we in the midst of a cultural shift when it comes to gay rights issues? Call us, 800-433-8850. How does sports reflect American popular culture? You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org if you'd like to join the conversation there. Here on the phone now is Rick, in Bethesda, Md. Rick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:15:54

    RICKHi, my question is about the rhetorical difference between heterosexism and homophobia and as an activist, making a choice between these two terms that have a difference. It makes a difference, I think.

  • 13:16:13

    NNAMDIHeterosexism and homophobia, Howard?

  • 13:16:16

    ROSSWell, I think that Rick -- thanks for asking the question because I think that a lot of times what happens is terms get thrown into a general barrel and we kind of interchangeably use the terms and especially where this particular topic is concerned because it's a vernacular that's really just entered the broadest mainstream media, if you will, over the last 10 years, that's the case.

  • 13:16:37

    ROSSGenerally speaking, homophobia refers to, as it sounds like, the fear of that interaction with or the fear, in some cases, of even being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. So it speaks more to that sense of fear, of phobia, that's there.

  • 13:16:53

    ROSSHeterosexism speaks more to the notion that systems or behaviors or choices are made which actively discriminate against people who are different than we are because of their sexual orientations so more along the lines of racism or sexism or anything else. But often the terms are used interchangeably and certainly most people, I think, recognize the terms, but those are the distinctions.

  • 13:17:18

    TAYLORAnd, you know, growing up on various wrestling teams, I've often found that the homophobia that I've witnessed is in many cases a byproduct of heterosexism. Not necessarily -- you know, a lot of athletes that I've met, they are not hateful people. They don't -- they're not homophobic in an intentionally hurtful way.

  • 13:17:43

    TAYLORI think that that's how homophobia typically manifests, as a way to assert that I am straight. So by calling somebody else gay, you know, on the playground, in the locker room, that in some way asserts my hetero -- I'm heterosexual. And that's something that we need to address and I think we need to bring heterosexism more into the conversation because I think it is both and.

  • 13:18:09

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Rick, thank you very much for your call.

  • 13:18:13

    RICKThank you.

  • 13:18:14

    NNAMDIYou, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. What kinds of lessons do we teach young people through sport and what does it mean to be a straight ally to the LGBT community? 800-433-8850. Hudson Taylor, do you see sports culture as changing?

  • 13:18:30

    TAYLORAbsolutely. I think what's happening we are reaching a climax of awareness. Firs thing, you know, I never had any out teammates or friends growing up. I didn't have any out relatives so for a long time I didn't see LGBT issues has pertaining to me, you know. Why is this my issue? Why should I care about this?

  • 13:18:55

    TAYLORBut I think what's happened, we've reached a point where the LGBT community is, A, being positively portrayed in the media, in movies. You know, which I think makes people far more open to creating inclusive cultures. And we're also having, you know, at school programs that support kids coming out.

  • 13:19:17

    TAYLORSo, you know, when I got to college, all of a sudden, I had peers who were coming out and, all of a sudden, this issue that I thought was so foreign to me, I realized was all around me. And really all around all of us, you know. I never had a teammate who came out, but I would wager to say that I've definitely had teammates who were closeted.

  • 13:19:36

    TAYLORBecause you'd be surprised, you know, there are athletes who not being made to feel welcome and accepted as being themselves. So I think that we are in a place in society, in athletics, that people are starting to really get it and do something about it.

  • 13:19:52

    NNAMDICharles Barkley, now famously saying that he would rather play with a gay basketball player who can play than with a straight one who can't. The current basketball season there were noteworthy, newsworthy examples. Two stars caught on camera using homophobic language in separate instances facing immediate disciplinary action. What do you see is the significance of the fines against Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah?

  • 13:20:15

    ROSSWell, I think that there are a couple of things happening. I think that one of the things is, I think the fact that that there are fines for homophobic slurs, which probably have occurred in most basketball games over the -- I mean, it's not like it's unusual for those words to be used.

  • 13:20:29

    NNAMDIProbably say what's said on the court stays on the court.

  • 13:20:31

    ROSSExactly right. But in addition to that, I think what it first shows, Kojo, is that there's a shift in our culture. I think we're shifting from the notion that -- you know, there's a famous Jerry Seinfeld episode that some people have seen where they say, you might be hom -- not that it matters.

  • 13:20:45

    NNAMDINot that there's anything wrong with it.

  • 13:20:46

    ROSSNot that there's anything wrong with it, right. Well, that actually is a shift because we would say -- and you and I talked about this before, that for a long time we've said racism is wrong even though we haven't met that standard. We've said sexism is wrong even though we've met that standard. But we haven't had that same standard where heterosexism is concerned or where equality for sexual orientation is concerned.

  • 13:21:05

    ROSSAnd so as a result of that, I think that these comments are showing us that we're beginning to get a societal standard that says it's not okay to use profanity in that way, to use insulting words or names or language to defame people in that way. That begins to say that we're coming to a shared standard. I think it also speaks, though, to something else, which is a shift in the sports culture in that we're beginning to look at athletes more as whole people now than we ever did before.

  • 13:21:29

    NNAMDIRight.

  • 13:21:29

    ROSSAnd we see this in lots of ways. We have WNBA players who are taking time off for pregnancy, I believe. The other night I was watching the game and if you saw it, you may have noticed they have a whole piece on Mike Miller and what was going on with his child being born.

  • 13:21:41

    NNAMDII saw that last night.

  • 13:21:42

    ROSSAnd how, you know, he took the time. Well, these are -- you know, years ago you never would see a thing like that. At most, you'd see somebody in the community doing their, you know, sort of charity thing. But the actual sense of people are as human beings and so I think that that's part of this backdrop as well.

  • 13:21:56

    NNAMDIWell, in the case of Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, he was yelling, heckling -- he was yelling at a heckling fan when he was caught using the F word. Which brings up the question, where do fans fit in to all of this? You've all been to professional sports events where the fans have shouted things at athletes that were extremely problematic. So far, the general attitude has been, if you pay the price of the ticket, then you're allowed to say just about anything.

  • 13:22:20

    NNAMDII don't know, during the course of your wrestling career, Hudson, how many things you may have heard yelled at people during the course. Do the fans have any responsibility in this at all?

  • 13:22:29

    TAYLORAbsolutely. You know, there are many, many layers to the athletic community. Just addressing the conduct of the athletes is not enough to make athletics the place that it should be. We have to speak to the coaches and how the coaches teach their athletes. We have to speak to the administrations at universities and what kind of policies they have. And I think fan culture is a major part of that because, you know, the TVs pick it up, the athletes respond to it. The students respond to it and it becomes a social norm. And until we address that and correct that, you know, athletics is still going to be broken, in a way.

  • 13:23:14

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation on sports culture and homophobia. If you have called, stay on the line, we'll get to your call. We still have a few lines open, so call us at 800-433-8850. How does sports reflect American popular culture in your view? Or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:25:34

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about sports culture and homophobia. We're talking with Hudson Taylor. He is the founder of Athlete Ally, that's a nonprofit that focuses on ridding sport of homophobia and transphobia. He's a former all-American wrestler at the University of Maryland and currently a wrestling coach at Columbia University. He joins Howard Ross in studio. Howard is a diversity consultant and business coach, principal at the corporate consulting firm, Cook Ross.

  • 13:26:00

    NNAMDIWe're taking your calls at 800-433-8850 or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. A number of retired athletes have come out years after their playing days were done, but a lot of people argue that this conversation will be incomplete until someone, some elite athlete, comes out of the closet while that athlete is still at the top of his game. Is that important?

  • 13:26:25

    ROSSWell, I mean, I think it will be a sign that it's really safe. I think that's the real measure of it. I think whether or not we can wait -- I don't think we have to wait to have that conversation, but I do think that when we finally have athletes at that level who see themselves -- and they're very much in the way we talked about where the military is concerned.

  • 13:26:41

    ROSSWhen we begin to have people who are winning the congressional medal of honor or other medals of bravery and, you know, putting their lives on the line for people around them, it disengages that conversation that Hudson was talking about before about the notion that if you're gay, you're weak. If you're a lesbian, you're only one particular way. You know, when we begin to see people in their whole humanity, we begin to realize how much those stereotypes are off-based. And therefore it gives people permission to be themselves more. So I think it is important.

  • 13:27:07

    NNAMDIHudson, this is a kind of chicken and egg situation, isn't it? If gay athletes don't feel like they'll be supported by their teammates and fans, then they have no incentive to come out. But if nobody comes out, teammates and fans often have no idea that they need to be supportive.

  • 13:27:22

    TAYLORExactly.

  • 13:27:23

    NNAMDIHere's this email we got, I'd like you to respond, from Dave who says, "I went to a military college and my closest friend was gay. I didn't know the whole four years. After graduating and commissioning, we went our separate ways in the military, but he didn't keep in touch much like I had expected. Last year, he moved back to the D.C. area, left the military and came out. So I asked him why he was so quiet over the years when we were such great friends in school.

  • 13:27:47

    NNAMDIHere is where the homophobic undercurrent has harmed us. He was scared to tell me he was gay because he didn't want to take the chance that I would reject him as a friend. It would have ruined our college years for him. I've never been homophobic, but he couldn't take the chance. So we lost basically 10 years of friendship after school because of his reasonable fear."

  • 13:28:06

    TAYLORYeah. The one point that I always try to stress to athletes is that speaking out as an ally, we'll almost always do more good for others than it could ever do harm to yourself. So I think that, you know, if we assert that we are supportive and, you know, we respect and accept whomever you choose you are, you know, that's when we can start to form really meaningful relationships with our friends.

  • 13:28:35

    TAYLORAnd, you know, the fact that he didn't feel comfortable coming out, that's really a shame. But I think that it's going to take the allies speaking out, being assertive, you know, that's really what's going to cause a major cultural shift.

  • 13:28:54

    NNAMDIHoward, I had one anonymous response today from an individual who said, "See? The fact that they're putting all these rules in place, fining people and the like, simply means that the LBGT community is taking over. It's going to ruin sports and that these rules are really just a kind of imposition of political correctness."

  • 13:29:14

    ROSSWell, I think that, you know, look, first of all, professional sports especially, players sign a contract and they have an agreement to engage in certain behavior consistent with playing. And that behavior is determined by the league in some cases. If you remember a few years ago there was a big furor because players were told that they couldn't wear bling by the NBA, for example. It was a very similar kind of a thing. People said this was a violation of their self-expression.

  • 13:29:36

    NNAMDIHad to start wearing jackets, too, when they were on the bench.

  • 13:29:39

    ROSSExactly right. They're sometimes told what they have to wear, whether they can have facial hair. So some code of behavior is part of the package. Now I do think that where political correctness is concerned that there is a danger to it and that is that when we suppress the conversation, it doesn't suppress the feelings. And so the feelings are still there. People are still treated the way they're treated, like the person whose letter you just read. And they're under the surface.

  • 13:30:05

    ROSSAnd the one benefit of being able to talk about it is that we can constructively engage in dialogue. I think that there's something else here, which is it's important for us to recognize that we're going through a shift in our culture a lot because all of a sudden people do see people coming out. And I think -- the more people come -- and ironically, the whole AIDS epidemic contributed something to that because all of sudden we saw people who are heroes, Rock Hudson notably, other people, people in our families, nephews, cousins, uncles, aunt, you know, whatever, brothers, people we didn't know who were gay.

  • 13:30:36

    ROSSAnd all of a sudden, these people we love, we cared about and we admired were that thing that we were afraid of. And that is a particular challenge. But I think for those of us who are straight and are committed to this, we have to recognize that ally-ship doesn't mean taking care of them. It means speaking for a culture in which when the constitution says all people are created equal, it really means all.

  • 13:30:59

    ROSSAnd fighting for that society is the issue, not just being sort of paternalistically helping somebody else, but fighting for a society in which equity is present because of what that means about what American culture is truly supposed to be about.

  • 13:31:14

    NNAMDIWell, a lot of people will say that sports culture is one of the problems that we have here because from a very early age, kids who are good at sports are given all sorts of direct and subtle clues and models for acceptable behavior. Here is Vicky in Falls Church, Va. Vicky, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:31:34

    VICKYHey, can you hear me, Kojo?

  • 13:31:35

    NNAMDIYes, we can, Vicky.

  • 13:31:37

    VICKYGood. Well, this is a great conversation and I just wanted to point out something that drives me crazy. I'm not a big sports follower, but whenever I see this, it just upsets me. Coaches of every level of sports tend to put down their teams maybe in a joking way, but they call them girls or lady and probably even worse than that. And I think that just starts them off with the whole mindset that they have to put others down to feel more manly or more macho and that makes it easier to put, you know, everybody down. And women and girls, we just get so much of this negativity, even in comedy. And, like, everything is compared to a little girl. You know, what...

  • 13:32:27

    NNAMDIIt's gotten to the point where even women athletes don't like to be told things like you're throwing like a girl. Okay, so how do you deal with that, Hudson?

  • 13:32:34

    TAYLORI mean, I just try to express to, whether it's my athletes or the students and kids, I'm talking to that words matter. You know, our words move with us into other areas of life. And that I think athletes are natural leaders. You know, you go into any high school and the trophies that you see in the case are not academic, they are athletic. So at a very early age, athletes are -- they have a lot of cultural capital, so to speak.

  • 13:33:03

    TAYLORSo it's very important that coaches and athletes become mindful of their words. And I think that up until now there has been this really unfortunate cycle. You know, today's coaches were yesterday's athletes and today's athletes will be tomorrow's coaches. So until we try to break that cycle, you know, that sexist language, that homophobic language and some communities maybe even racist language, you know, we need athletes and pretty much all people to be aware that their words do affect and that we can either affirm and unite or we can degrade and divide.

  • 13:33:41

    NNAMDIHoward, in January of the year 2000, the Atlanta Braves found themselves in the middle of one of the worst PR nightmares possible. A pitcher named John Rocker had given an interview to Rolling Stone that might have broken records for the number of minority groups he offended in the space of a few paragraphs.

  • 13:33:56

    ROSSYes.

  • 13:33:56

    NNAMDIThe Braves then proceed to hire one Howard Ross. Tell us about your experience working with a professional sports team.

  • 13:34:03

    ROSSWell, first of all, I have to say it was a little surreal because I've been a baseball fan my whole life. So as I was working with the players, you know, there was a part of me that said, okay, do you understand what mean? Now, can I have your autograph?

  • 13:34:14

    ROSSI mean, you know, I was halfway between an 11-year-old and a professional. There are a number of things about it that were really striking to me, Kojo. There was one -- one was just the nature of the way professional athletes live their lives. And I think it's true for high college sports as well and for athletes who are successful at any level to some degrees, obviously larger degrees, which is the fish bowl that they live their lives in.

  • 13:34:34

    ROSSAnd it was quite remarkable being in that a little bit, be on the field with the players and just because they happen to give me a jacket and hat because it was chilly that day and here I was at the time, you know, roughly around 50 years old and kids were running up to me and asking me for my autograph. You know, they had no idea who I was, but I looked like I was on the field. So I think that that puts a lot of pressure.

  • 13:34:56

    ROSSAnd I think that the other thing that's clear is that you've got a lot of people in sports who are there because they have a particular talent. Their particular talent is to be able to play the particular sport, but it doesn't mean that they're prepared in any way for what they need to deal with today in terms of what their world means. And we've seen athletes -- you talked about Charles Barkley before. He very famously said, at one point, I didn't choose to be anybody's role model, if you remember when he spit on a fan, I think, or something.

  • 13:35:23

    NNAMDIYup.

  • 13:35:25

    ROSSAnd yet athletes, when they speak, it means something. When Kobe Bryant says something or Noah says something, it means something because it comes out of these athletes' mouths and the players really have to understand that. And one of the things that's behind all this, too, and we were just talking about this in the last interchange, is that there's a place, there's a nexus at which sexism and homophobia are very deeply connected.

  • 13:35:51

    ROSSWhen you talk about somebody as Vicky was saying, the last caller, when you talk about somebody who's insulted by being called a girl, we can see that homophobia is really based in this notion that we have very clear sexual stereotypes in our society. Otherwise, why would being a girl, being called a girl be a big deal?

  • 13:36:06

    TAYLOROffensive, yeah.

  • 13:36:07

    ROSSThat's right. And so what ends up happening in a lot of cases is because sports is so associated with men, even women's sport has underneath this the notion that if you're going to be a woman athlete, that means you're mannish or you throw like a girl or all these kinds of things. And similarly, where guys are concerned, it's there, too. So we can't deal with homophobia or heterosexism without also dealing with sexism in our society. They're inexorably woven.

  • 13:36:35

    NNAMDIWell, we got to talk about why this is important outside of sports. Hudson, Howard often talks about how some companies approach diversity issues in kind of a passive way, taking steps to address discrimination or lack of diversity only when they're being sued. You also talk about proactive steps that athletes and college athletics programs should be taking now that you're a coach, I guess you have the opportunity to try to implement some of that.

  • 13:37:00

    TAYLORYeah. So, I mean, I find that a lot of times what I've seen in athletics is people have been so reactive. You know, you have the Kobe, the Noah event. You have these sort of black eyes on the sports culture and people respond to that. But it's a reactive, you know, it's reactive. It doesn't come from within. It's, how do I fix this problem? How do I approach this from a PR standpoint? So some of the things that I try to do is, you know, I have this pledge. As an athlete I pledged and I try to get students and athletes to take this pledge back to their communities and start the conversation.

  • 13:37:39

    TAYLORYou know, I can go to a thousand schools and have this conversation a thousand times, but until students and athletes and professional athletes decide for themselves that this is something that they are going to care about, they are going to do something to change and to challenge, you know, not a lot's going to happen. So I think that being proactive is at the heart of how we're going to fix athletics.

  • 13:38:05

    NNAMDIIn other words, you have to teach a young wrestler to be the most skilled, toughest wrestler he or she can be without involving the issue of sexuality whatsoever.

  • 13:38:15

    TAYLORWell, the one -- the point that I drive home is victory through unity. So it's the idea that if we are going to achieve athletic success, we are going to do so as a united team. And that even the smallest amount of homophobia or transphobic or sexist language in some way divides a team. It creates a culture of individuals, not a unified team. So, you know, that's the point that I try to drive home. You know, regardless of you religious or political beliefs, I think we can all agree that people should be treated with dignity and respect and that diversity is beneficial to athletics.

  • 13:38:53

    NNAMDIHere is Bryan in Washington, D.C. Bryan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:38:58

    BRYANHey, how's it going, Kojo?

  • 13:39:01

    NNAMDII'm doing well.

  • 13:39:02

    BRYANI know that most (unintelligible) you guys are talking about focus on athletics. But since you're considering the macho stereotypes and a lot of things like that right now, I actually wanted to point out that there is a rather large sect of the gay culture that I am a part of that is extremely macho, extremely masculine, almost to the point of, almost the exact same points that you would expect with a heterosexual alpha male.

  • 13:39:33

    BRYANAnd I feel the big thing that makes a lot of these things so less accepted is it's commonplace in our media and in our society is very effeminate, very flamboyant idea of what a gay man is, I feel we can actually really reach some new boundaries and take some new steps. If we could really shake off that particular stereotype, we could just mass apply it to everybody.

  • 13:40:05

    NNAMDIHoward?

  • 13:40:06

    ROSSAnd of course -- that's of course true, Brian, and like in any population, you've got a vast array of people. And then of course there are also people in the category you're talking about Brian, who -- for whom that kind of armoring, that kind of building oneself up is a protection against the very stereotypes that they've seen their whole lives, in the very same way that there are women who learn in business to act more like men because that way people can't accuse them of being too feminine.

  • 13:40:31

    TAYLORThe pantsuit.

  • 13:40:32

    ROSSAnd people who try to pass or act more white if they're people of color, et cetera. So that's a piece of it as well. And the totality of who people are is often lost -- is always lost in our stereotypes.

  • 13:40:45

    NNAMDIHudson, you say that you've seen major changes coming in organized sports, different attitudes about gender roles and the like, but many of the people who are gatekeepers to sports, the people who serve as announcers and commentators are former professional athletes from a different era. What do you say about those gatekeepers? What do you think?

  • 13:41:05

    TAYLORWell, I think that awareness is the key, so to speak. So the fact that we are seeing fines, the fact that, you know, this is a conversation that we're having here today, is I think enough to change the minds of those gatekeepers. Like I said, the majority of the people I talk to, it's not that they are hateful people or, you know, really have deep homophobic fears, it's that they're unaware of how this issue pertains to them.

  • 13:41:44

    TAYLORSo I think that those gatekeepers, once they become aware that the person sitting next to them has been closeted their whole life because of this culture, and, you know, wishes that they could just come out, I think that that goes a long way to changing people's hearts and minds.

  • 13:41:59

    NNAMDII did see some significance, Howard Ross, that when Rick Welts, the president of the Phoenix Suns who decided to come out, one of the first people he consulted was Bill Russell. He went all the way to Seattle, Washington. So when you talk about a senior generation and a gatekeeper, you don't get much more authentic than Bill Russell.

  • 13:42:15

    ROSSThat's right. And of course Bill Russell dealt with the same thing in Boston relative to race back there. Kojo, I know we're running out time...

  • 13:42:23

    NNAMDIFinal comment, yes.

  • 13:42:24

    ROSS...and I was just wondering if I could, as a moment of parental pride, I'd like to end -- because it gives us some hope, my son, Jake, is a 17-year-old as you know, and he's at Edinburgh School, and he's a wrestler. And the other day right after Brendan, the producer called me about this show, just coincidentally Jake sent me an e-mail, and in it he included a poem that he wrote, just completely randomly at the same time. And it's -- so let me just -- it'll just take a minute to just read this.

  • 13:42:48

    NNAMDISure.

  • 13:42:49

    ROSSHate, children forced to vacate their schools, punished again and again for following the rules. Trying to fit into a society that doesn't want them, that calls them different for being who they were born to be. Gay, lesbian, transgender, straight, we're all people. There's no need for hate. People are hated for who they are, told they are different, told they have flaws. But the truth is, nobody deserves to be hated, harmed for things beyond their control.

  • 13:43:11

    ROSSFeelings are feelings and they belong the feeler. School children harm each other, wounds to deep to heal. Little boys interested in others while people just like them are murdered every day. And there's poor innocent Matthew Shepherd who died for being gay. Beat to death and left crucified in the desert. When will the world learn that to discriminate is to kill.

  • 13:43:28

    ROSSCalling a little boy fag is the same as stabbing him with a knife, whether it be from an angry, ignorant fool, or by his own hand. This wound may cost him his life. Life is a very beautiful thing, it deserves to be cherished, but this cannot happen when innocent children perish. So stop the hate, stop the death, stop the rage, learn to love, because the world won't fix itself. We must fix the hearts that are broken.

  • 13:43:49

    ROSSBecause if we can't love those different from us, then how can we really love at all?

  • 13:43:53

    NNAMDIThat's from Jake?

  • 13:43:54

    ROSSYeah.

  • 13:43:55

    NNAMDIJake is a wrestler?

  • 13:43:56

    ROSSYes.

  • 13:43:57

    TAYLORMm-hmm.

  • 13:43:57

    NNAMDINo more smart remarks from me, Jake. (laugh) Howard Ross is a diversity consultant and business coach. He's a principal at the corporate consulting firm, Cook Ross. Howard, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:44:06

    ROSSThank you, Kojo. Always good to be here.

  • 13:44:08

    NNAMDIHudson Taylor is founder of Athlete Ally, a non-profit that focuses on ridding sort of homophobia and transphobia. He's a former All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland. He's currently a wrestling coach at Columbia University. Hudson, thank you for joining us, good luck to you.

  • 13:44:22

    TAYLORThank you so much for having me.

  • 13:44:24

    NNAMDIWe're gonna take a short break. When we come back, the voters went to the polls in Peru over the weekend to elect a new president. We'll talk about the significance of that. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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