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Paul Myerberg, @PaulMyerberg, USA TODAY Sports

In February, after former Missouri defensive end and likely NFL draft pick Michael Sam announced he was gay, representatives from GLAAD and the You Can Play Project met to discuss a media-centered game plan for a transformative moment.

GLAAD, which promotes a positive and accurate media portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, helped You Can Play and its executive director, Wade Davis, craft a message on the importance of LGBT visibility and acceptance in sports.

"It was a time where GLAAD really stepped in there and said, 'Hey Wade, let us handle the media aspect of it, and we'll really work as a team to talk about messaging,'" Davis said.

Today, five weeks after Sam's announcement, the two organizations will christen an official partnership that will marry one of the nation's leading gay advocacy groups with an organization in You Can Play designed to promote equality for athletes regardless of sexual orientation.

With Sam as the latest example, it's vital now more than ever that organizations such as GLAAD and You Can Play unite to help lead the discussion on what has proved to be a controversial topic, Davis said.

"One of the biggest things is that there are so many LGBT athletes who are now stepping out and announcing their sexuality," he said. "Let's make sure the reporting on this is done in a way where the story about sports can be told as it intersects with LGBT athletes."

Said Davis: "I've always been a firm believer that sports is a space that is accepting of people who are different, whether it's someone of a different race, a different class, a different religion. So one of our biggest goals is to really shine a light on what effect sports can have on creating better understanding of LGBT individuals."

For GLAAD, the collaboration with You Can Play marks the first full-scale foray into the world of sports -- an arena wrongly labeled as inhospitable to the gay community, GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said.

"One of the things that we'd love to do is debunk some of these myths around the locker room issues and the myth perception that the professional sporting world is homophobic, when in fact it's a very inclusive world, and it has been," Ellis said.

"I think that played out with Michael Sam. But that trickles down, that myth perception trickles down to the local level, to the soccer fields and the baseball fields in our local communities. We want to make sure that we're changing that conversation."


March 19, 2014




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