Vikings and the LGBT Community | Bonehead Picks

The Minnesota Vikings take a step in discussion about inclusion

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Americans have become more accepting in their views of LGBT people and homosexuality in recent years. There are fewer people in America who have an open disdain and hatred for LGBT people than there have been in past decades. In America, a 63% majority say homosexuality should be accepted by society, a share that also has grown over the past few decades. There is still significant push back from people and organizations that do not find LGBT people to be equal or as human as their straight counterparts. However, it appears that the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL do not care about those people who harbor negative feelings about the LGBT community. The Vikings will become the first NFL franchise to host a large-scale summit and fundraiser focused on the inclusion of LGBT athletes in sports on June 21. This is an interesting development four years since the 2014 NFL Draft had the first openly gay football player drafted into the NFL, former Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam.

The story of Michael Sam was well chronicled in 2014. He was a former college football player at Missouri who informed his teammates that he was gay during preseason training camp prior to the team’s 2013 college football season. His teammates never shared his sexual orientation to the team, the team had a terrific season, and Sam won the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year award after totaling 10 sacks. Prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, Sam decided to publicly announce that he was gay and was drafted by the then-St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, which made Sam the first openly gay player ever drafted into the NFL. The Rams cut him during the final preseason roster cutdowns. He also spent time on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad during the 2014 NFL season before being waived but he never played in a regular season NFL game.

Professional and collegiate sports are often seen as the ultimate meritocracy. Everyone who can athletically compete against the best will get an opportunity and athletic performance and ability are the most important factors in whether an athlete will get an opportunity to perform or play. However, there can still be anti-LGBT attitudes and actions in sports. The Minnesota Vikings’ LGBTQ inclusion summit will focus on LGBTQ inclusion in sports. Regarding this event, Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said, “The Vikings are committed to leading efforts that raise awareness and create positive change for LGBTQ athletes across the country, and we are proud to bring together some of the nation’s thought leaders to create an engaging and impactful discussion.” The event will also have a reception to raise funds for local and national LGBTQ organizations.

From a numbers standpoint, there were approximately 10 million people, or 4.1% of the U.S. adult population, who identified as LGBT in 2016, according to estimates from Gallup. The numbers of actual LGBT people in America are higher than that because it is clear that there are some people who haven’t publicly come out for numerous reasons. There remains a fear of negative reactions, retaliation, and discrimination against LGBT people that keeps those people from doing what Michael Sam did in terms of openly being themselves. While things have improved in terms of respect for LGBT people openly in America, there remains a lot of work to do in breaking down the barriers that LGBT people face on a daily basis and that includes in the world of sports.


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