By Dirk Smith
During the last week of November, I sat down at my desk, microphone set up and ready to record a discussion with my friend Ken Felts for NPR’s StoryCorps podcast. Being my first ever podcast, the premise was for Ken and I to talk about our friendship and impact on each other’s lives. Flashback to the Spring of 2020 as the Coronavirus Pandemic was starting to cause major worldwide disruptions to everyday life. Ken Felts is a 90-year-old man living in Colorado posted a Facebook message that would forever change his life. For the first time in his life, Ken came out as gay
The discussion of racism in sports in the US is typically focused on issues predominantly affecting black athletes. While these are important issues to discuss, it usually leaves other minority communities on the sideline. It’s important to recognize that the topic of “racism” is a multi-faceted and complex issue where different people are affected by it in different ways. Thus, the problems of racism that affect black people in America are not necessarily the same as those that affect Asian people in America. All these issues are valid and should be addressed with equal importance when it comes to the discussion of racism in sports.
As the US is in the midst of chaotic protests as it is gripping with the reality of systemic racism prevalent in policing and law enforcement, as well as ingrained within our society as a whole. The trust between police departments and the communities they are supposed to be responsible for has been shattered. It’s time to have an important discussion on the existence of systematic racism in sports. Let’s be clear, systematic racism and white privilege exists in sports on every level.
The issue in regard to the inclusivity and acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes in sports has been heating up lately as we are seeing more athletes in individual sports taking the steps to come out and compete as openly gay. Major professional sports teams in the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA and MLS have been showing support by hosting various Pride Night events, some of which include prominent displays of rainbow flags, appearances by LGBTQI sports teams and athlete panels. In some cases, funding and sponsoring LGBTQI organizations and events.
In addition, several sports companies and corporations have been working to promote their various Pride products in an effort to show their willingness to be LGBTQI inclusive. Companies such as Nike and Brooks Running Company have even taken it a step further by investing in LGBTQI sports clubs and events to promote LGBTQI inclusion in sports. So, taking it at face value, it seems that sports have come a long way to show it’s more inclusive and accepting of LGBTQI people. Yet, as of June 2020, there is only one openly gay male athlete in the five US major professional sports leagues and zero in Europe who are still on an active roster. Why is that?
An often heard and constantly repeated racist stereotype that “black people can’t swim” or more specifically, “African American people can’t swim” has been around for generations. The stereotype has been bolstered by the lack of representation of black swimmers during the four-year Olympic cycle when swimming suddenly becomes relevant in American culture for two months. Even the statistics are discouraging...
The topic of inclusion in sports for transgender, intersex and non-binary people in sports has been quite hot lately. With notable athletes such as Caster Semenya, Dr. Rachel McKinnon, Mack Beggs and others making an impact on sport. There has never been a time in which the need of discussion for education, inclusion and action has been more relevant. How can we make sports and exercise more accessible for transgender, intersex and non-binary people?
This has been a common question for many years now, people questioning “why” are LGBTQI sports events still a thing in a so-called “post equality” society. I have been a staunch defender of the relevance of LGBTQI sports events such as Gay Games, Sin City Classic and other events on a local, national and international level because I truly believe they are relevant. Even despite the disasters of recent LGBTQI sports events including the 2015 and 2019 Eurogames as well as the 2017 Outgames (as well as the Outgames brand as a whole).
However, I am starting to question this resolve myself. Why do we need LGBTQI sports events? I ask this because the LGBTQI is now facing an existential crisis that has been a long time coming, but only now exasperated by Covid-19. In the last 5 years, 3 of the biggest LGBTQI sports events have been unmitigated disasters. Plagued by overconfidence, incompetence and straight up crookery, these events and the people behind them have damaged this community in ways that have left athletes broke and running away from it forever. Sure, with large events you can’t expect everything to go perfect and everybody has bad days. But when you start to see patterns of bad behavior emerge without any real resolve, you start to question the validity, relevance and future of the movement. Most importantly, as an athlete who would be paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for event registration, travel and lodging expenses, you ask “is this event worth investing in?”
The 2020 Olympic Games are set to be the most equal Olympics yet, and by that, I mean that there will be more gender equality in terms of events offered at the Olympic Games than ever before.
Throughout the history of the modern Olympic Games, gender equality has always been an issue, but it’s not an issue that is solely attributed to the Olympic Games or the International Olympic Committee themselves. It’s more toward the wider societal perceptions of sport in reflection of gender roles overall. This can be seen all throughout the history of the games. For example, despite the first games taking place in 1896. The first females to participate at the Olympic Games was in 1900 where 22 women took part in Tennis, Golf, Sailing and Croquet, sports which were considered more “feminine” at the time.
There has been increased discussion lately regarding the eligibility of transgender athletes and their participation in sporting competitions. Many proponents on both sides have been in heated discussions including several prominent athletes speaking out as well as various national and international sports organizations adopting trans-inclusive or transphobic policies
Coach Dirk, CSCS, is a sport psychology expert, performance coach, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete. He brings over 10 years of experience as a coach, athlete, personal trainer, fitness instructor, and sports psychologist to drive athletes to build their own self efficacy and express themselves through sport. Learn more about Dirk here!