Marlee Burridge: Covering progress
Lately I’ve been pretty hard on the sports community. It definitely needs some tough love and perhaps a wake-up call in order to fully realize the kind of inequalities it is perpetuating. I’ll give it this: The sports industry is going to be a tough nut to crack. Many people who work in this industry are set in their ways and perhaps are having a harder time adjusting to more progressive policies and ideas. Regardless, I can say confidently there are many athletes and supporters who will continue to speak out about any injustices and will not stop until equality is achieved. Despite many issues that still need to be addressed, I must give credit where credit is due. In the spirit of shedding some light on the good things that the sports community is doing, let’s talk about the ESPN Body Issue.
The Body Issue has always focused on creating positive conversations about body image as well as trying to garner a true appreciation for the incredible physical forms of these athletes. It shows off their strength and the overall impressive feat of nature that are the bodies of these top athletes. This year, ESPN featured Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird. Not only are these women some of the most incredible female athletes of their age, Bird being the all-time leader in assists in the Women's National Basketball Association and Rapinoe being a prolific scorer and long-time member of the U.S. national soccer team, but they are the first-ever LGBTQ couple to be featured in the issue, let alone on the cover.
This cover shows a very positive shift in the diversity of the issue. It has always been difficult, especially for male athletes, to come out as LGBTQ, but hopefully more progress like the cover of the Body Issue will continue to be made and the sports community will continue to support everyone regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
I recently saw another article that I feel needs some attention. The18.com wrote about a young man by the name of Collin Martin. Martin, a Minnesota United soccer player, just recently came out as gay on Twitter. He is now the only openly gay male athlete in major professional U.S. sports. He discusses how he has been out to family, friends and teammates for many years, but this is his first public statement. As a result of his tweet, there was an outpouring of support and encouragement from the soccer world. This kind of positivity and support is exactly what is needed to start enacting change. Male athletes are expected to be strong, “macho,” and masculine [COPY: macho and masculine are kinda redundant]. Unfortunately, unjustly and untruthfully, people have categorized gay men as just the opposite. This has made it difficult for male athletes to come out because they believe others will think they are less of an athlete and incapable of playing their sport at the highest level. Of course, this is not the case as all athletes at the highest level, regardless of sexual orientation, are extremely capable, and it is brave young men like Martin who will continue to inspire this wave of support and understanding.
Yes, the sports world has many faults and much to work on, but there are many positive things that are happening as well. The cover of the 2018 Body Issue and Martin’s statement have helped to spark positive conversations around female and LGBTQ athletes. Hopefully this progress continues and the sports community can help heal a lot of hurt and be an example for people everywhere. Nobody should be discriminated against for or defined by their gender or orientation. Differences should be embraced, respected and encouraged.