Category Archive : Sports

Karina Manta’s new book, On Top of Glass, shares stories of her skating life and teenage girlhood

Karina Manta’s new book, On Top Of Glass, is a revealing look at the life of a queer figure skater and her teenage and young-adult years. | Karina Manta

Manta is out in figure skating and sharing her stories and insights in her new book.
Karina Manta is one of the few publicly out LGBTQ athletes in women’s figure skating. Along with her out gay ice dancing partner, Joe Johnson, they make up a particularly prideful duo, having recorded a number of top-10 finishes at the US Figure Skating Championships.
Now Manta is sharing the story of her journey in a new book, On Top Of Glass: My Stories As A Queer Girl In Figure Skating.
This week she joined Outsports’ Five Rings To Rule podcast to talk about coming out and being out in figure skating, body-image issues she has faced and how being different sometimes felt dangerous and how that contributed to the title of the book.
She also talks about the meaning of seeing rainbow pride flags in the stands when she takes the ice, knowing those are in part there for her and Joe.
Yet the book isn’t just about her time on the ice, it’s about her life and growing up.
“As much as the book is about skating it’s about teenage girlhood,” she said, “and skating gave me a heightened experience of teenage girlhood. I hope people walk away from it respecting and honoring that experience, and also believing that institutions can change to protect all kinds of people.”
On Top Of Glass comes out Oct. 19. It is already available for order at Barnes & Noble and other booksellers — a quick Google search will bring up your favorite option.
You can listen to the conversation with author and figure skater Karina Manta on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.
And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.
You can follow Karina Manta on Instagram and on Twitter. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Gay NHL prospect Luke Prokop gets traded to his hometown

This season promises to be a homecoming for Luke Prokop. | Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Prokop is returning home to Edmonton. Gay NHL prospect Luke Prokop was traded Wednesday from the Nashville Predators organization to a minor league team operated by the same group that owns the Edmonton Oilers.
Officially, Prokop has been traded from the Calgary Hitmen to Edmonton Oil Kings. They play in the Western Hockey League. Prokop is from Edmonton.
Though the Predators drafted Prokop in 2020, he’s spent part of five seasons with the Hitmen. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Predators last December.
“The organization is really excited to welcome Luke to the Oil Kings,” said Oil Kings President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Kirt Hill,” via the WHL. “Luke is a player we know well having played against him in our division over the past three seasons. We feel he will bring a wealth of experience to our back end and is a player who can play big minutes for our group.”

Thank you Calgary! @WHLHitmen pic.twitter.com/UtcnSpr9ay— luke prokop (@lukeprokop_6) October 14, 2021

Prokop, 19, became the first out gay player signed to an NHL contract when he publicly came out in July. His announcement, which came about three weeks after Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib, was met with widespread support across the NHL.
In fact, Sir Elton John even called Prokop to congratulate him.
One of the most telling quotes surrounding Prokop’s coming out came from Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki, who said he didn’t think there could’ve been an out gay player in the NHL when he was growing up.
The 32-year-old remarked how much the hockey world has changed.
“To see this sport evolve where a young man feels comfortable enough to do this, I think it’s great,” Borowiecki said, via NHL.com. “I think it’s the growth of our sport. I think it’s the growth of all sports in general. Sports need to be a safe space for everyone, and hockey needs to go along with that.”
Prokop said he didn’t hear any gay slurs from teammates when he attended the Predators’ 2021 Developmental Camp.
Still a teenager, it could take some time before Prokop plays in the NHL — if he receives that chance. Until then, he’ll be living that minor league hockey life, which includes being traded on a whim.
But at least Prokop will be able to play in front of family and friends all winter long. This season promises to be a homecoming. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Tom Daley says countries with death penalties for LGBTQ people should be banned from the Olympics

Tom Daley displayed his activist streak while accepting his 2021 Attitude Award. | Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

The Olympic gold medalist is determined to ensure anti-LGBTQ nations won’t be welcome at the 2024 Paris Games. For years, Tom Daley has been used to having an amplified voice. Ever since winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, he’s used the increased attention to elevate his platform even further and advocate for the LGBTQ community.
So when he attended the Attitude Awards ceremony last week to accept the Sport Award, Daley used the moment to push for a cause that’s become increasingly important to him.
He wants to ban countries with death penalties for LGBTQ people from participating in the Olympics.
“These past Olympic Games, there were more out LGBT athletes than any of the previous Olympics combined. Which is a great step forward,” Daley said. “Yet, there are still ten countries that punish being gay with death that were still allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.
“I want to make it my mission — hopefully before the Paris Olympics in 2024 — to make it so that the countries that criminalize, and punish LGBT people by death are not allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.”
Daley’s proclamation was met with huge applause and a partial standing ovation in the middle of his speech.

Olympic champion @TomDaley1994 confirms he’ll campaign for countries that carry the death penalty for being gay to be barred from all future Games as he accepts the Attitude Sport Award, supported by @jaguaruk.#AttitudeAwards pic.twitter.com/QtSi5UH2gV— Attitude Magazine (@AttitudeMag) October 7, 2021

According to the Human Dignity Trust, countries where being LGBTQ is punished with the death penalty include: Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Of the countries on that list, Daley singled out Qatar, which will be soon be hosting the World Cup, one of the biggest international sporting events out there.
“The World Cup coming up in Qatar, [a nation that] has extreme rules about LGBT people and about women. I think it should not be allowed for a sporting event to [be hosted] in a country that criminalizes against basic human rights,” Daley said. “So that is going to be my mission now to try and change that.”
As Daley reflected earlier in his speech, he’s come to realize that it’s not enough for a public figure with his level of influence to merely mention social causes and bask in the adulation. Instead, he proclaimed that it’s time for him to act.
“I know I’ve spoken a lot about [this issue],” he said. “But at the same time, it’s all well and good to be able to speak about those things, but I think it’s really important to try and create change rather than just highlighting and shining a light on those things.”
With those words in mind, this is certainly not the last we’ll hear from Daley as he works to fight back against the countries that criminalize our community. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Carl Nassib takes personal day in wake of Jon Gruden anti-gay comments

Carl Nassib is currently the only publicly out gay player in the NFL. | Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Carl Nassib may feel more alone than he felt when he was in the closet. That is a tragedy. I feel the worst for Carl Nassib in the aftermath of Jon Gruden’s emails.
It was less than four months ago that Nassib made a choice to come out as gay, the only current player in the NFL to do so. He did it on the very team Gruden coached. And he chose to do it during Pride month, our community’s celebration of who we are and our togetherness.
Yet I can only imagine how alone Nassib feels this week.
Today he requested time away from the team, less than two days after Gruden’s awful comments became public.
When Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said today that Nassib “is a community of one that is openly gay” in the NFL, he was not far off. There are great players who are out who came before him, but virtually none of them know what he’s feeling.
I can only imagine the onslaught of requests Nassib has received to talk about Gruden’s slurs. “The gay player for the anti-gay coach.” For the media, it writes itself.
Yet the last person I would try to reach out to right now is Nassib. The emotional toll of coming out and reading reports of your head coach calling the commissioner of the NFL a “faggot,” and Michael Sam a “queer,” has to be rough.
It’s something none of us know. We don’t understand it.
And Nassib has made it clear: He just wants to play football.
I wish I could give Nassib a hug. And listen to him, and talk to him. Help him.
He is not a community of one. But it must feel like it.
And I wish I could talk to every LGBTQ player in the NFL, help them see a path to joining Nassib as a publicly out player.
He is not a community of one. But it must feel like it.
Getting over the coming-out hurdle isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for Nassib. There are so many fears of reactions from family, players, fans. No matter how many Dave Kopays and Carl Nassibs have come before them, the fear is real.
Gruden’s own words make it even harder.
Yet my hope is that every other LGBTQ person across football can see what we’ve seen at Outsports, that people are generally good. That they generally want the best for their teammates, or the athletes on their favorite team. That parents generally just want their kids to be happy and successful. And that there is a wonderful, diverse LGBTQ community to support all of it.
I hope they all take heart in how the NFL has reacted to Gruden’s once-private comments. Other than a couple “this was 10 years ago” comments on Twitter, I’ve seen no defense of what he said and his choice of words. Not from players, not from fans, not from coaches, not from anybody.
Yet none of that helps Nassib right now.
A community of one. I take some solace in knowing he has a boyfriend, someone who can hopefully listen to him and help him through this tough time.
I look for hope to some of his teammates, who have expressed pride in him. And I hope Mark Davis, the owner of the team, reaches out and offers two ears to listen. Davis’ family has staked its reputation on values of inclusion and diversity, and there are probably few people in the NFL more equipped to listen than the owner of Nassib’s team.
Coming out was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. To come out publicly? As an NFL player? I can’t imagine the fear they have to overcome.
Yet it was also the best decision I’ve made in my life. We hear the same thing from out athletes everywhere. Nassib himself has talked about the absolute joy he’s experienced being his true self. And if you’ve been watching, he’s even been playing better.
As football players are coming out at high schools and colleges across America, I increasingly hope gay and bi NFL players do the same. They’re out there. I know they are.
And if they’re not ready to come out publicly, I so hope they’ll reach out to Nassib or the Raiders. Offer this young, courageous man a sense that he is not alone. Let him know there are others just like him playing around the league.
Even if he may feel alone right now, Nassib is not. And it’s our job to make sure he feels that sense of community. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Most out LGBTQ athletes say their teammates ‘never’ targeted them with slurs, study shows

The University of Minnesota has had numerous LGBTQ athletes come out while on the team, including runner Dawson LaRance (third from right). | University of Minnesota Athletics

LGBTQ athletes report hearing anti-LGBTQ language from a minority of teammates, though it’s still too many. The recent Out In Sports study revealed widespread acceptance of LGBTQ athletes who come out to teammates in high school and college. You can find more here.
Athletes slow or all together stop using homophobic slurs and anti-LGBTQ language when a teammate comes out.
That’s one of the many revealing results of the Out In Sports study, conducted by Outsports, the Univ. of Winchester and the Sports Equality Foundation, looking at the experiences of LGBTQ athletes who have come out to their teams.
Most of these LGBTQ athletes came out to their teammates despite hearing that problematic language used on the team. Before coming out, 69.3% of LGBTQ athletes say they heard at least one out of 10 teammates use homophobic language on a weekly basis.
When asked about hearing this language after they came out, that number drops to less than half — 49.5%.

“While it would be better if they did not use this language in the first place, when most athletes use language we might consider to be homophobic, they don’t mean to convey dislike of LGBTQ people,” said professor Eric Anderson, the lead researcher on the study. A former high school coach himself, Anderson has been researching homophobia in sports for two decades. “That is why, when they learn someone LGBTQ can hear them, they usually stop doing it.”
In addition, the use of this language was mainly by a minority of teammates. Even before coming out, only 13.8% of the respondents said they heard that language from half or more teammates, and that number drops to 5.1% after they came out.
All told, of the athletes who had heard teammates use anti-LGBTQ language before they came out, 56.6% indicated a reduction in the number of teammates who used that language after they came out.
Vast majority of athletes ‘never’ the target of homophobic language after coming out
Most of the athletes surveyed said they “never” heard anti-LGBTQ language directed at them.
When asked if teammates ever directed anti-LGBTQ language or slurs at them after coming out, 78% said “never,” with another 14% being unsure or saying “rarely.” This reflects the widespread overall acceptance LGBTQ athletes in the study said they experienced, with over 95% saying their experience with teammates was “neutral” at worst.
“I don’t think teammates generally target each other in an attempt to hurt each other.” -Anthony Nicodemo
“It’s been humanized for them,” Brock McGillis said of the change in behavior when athletes have an out teammate. McGillis is a former hockey player who now advocates for building more-inclusive spaces in sports. “When we put a face to something and it’s someone we know, there’s impact.”
Anthony Nicodemo, an out gay high school basketball coach and athletic director, as well as a Sports Equality Foundation board member, said athletes want to support teammates as they all have the same goal of winning together.
“I don’t think teammates generally target each other in an attempt to hurt each other,” Nicodemo said. “So naturally, when someone comes out on a team, they’re going to be more conscious than they were previous to having someone who’s LGBTQ in the locker room.”
Plenty of work still to be done on anti-LGBTQ language in sports
Still, that 69.3% number — the athletes who heard teammates use anti-LGBTQ language before they came out — sticks out.
That language is part of the dynamic in sports that make LGBTQ people think they will not be welcome if they come out. About two-thirds of the athletes in the Out In Sports study said the response from their teammates was “better” or “much better” than expected, while only about 3% said it was worse.
That shows not just widespread acceptance, but also lower expectations.
In part because of this language, LGBTQ athletes believe their teammates will reject them, even as they’re coming out.
“It’s the easiest thing we can shift, the words we use.” -Brock McGillis
“I felt like every gay slur or anti-LGBTQ+ language was directed at me,” said former Univ. of Miami football player TJ Callan. “I know they weren’t necessarily aimed at me but they felt extremely personal while I was there.”
Nicodemo said this kind of language keeps many athletes from coming out to teammates.
“If that language is being used in the locker room before the team knows they have someone gay on their team, that’s going to slow someone’s coming out process,” Nicodemo said. “Especially when you’re dealing with younger kids, high school kids.”
It’s one of the tentpoles of the work of people like McGillis and the Sports Equality Foundation, to curb the use of language that often falsely tells LGBTQ people they don’t belong.
“Language is what impacted me the most, even if it wasn’t directed at me,” McGillis said. He said he visits 50 to 75 schools annually to talk about his experiences. “It impacted me as if it was. It’s the easiest thing we can shift, the words we use. There are larger shifts that need to happen, but the language we use, we can correct tomorrow.”
You can find Brock McGillis and Anthony Nicodemo on Twitter. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Two out NFL staffers shared their stories of acceptance on National Coming Out Day

Lya Vallat and Stevie Johnson are out and proud working for the NFL.

Lya Vallat and Stevie Johnson have been out working at the NFL for years. Two NFL staff members shared their personal stories Monday for National Coming Out Day.
Stevie Johnson, a director of marketing strategy for the NFL, talked about coming out, being out, struggling with her sexuality as a kid and finding widespread acceptance in the NFL front office.
“When I arrived [at the NFL] three seasons ago I came as an unapologetically gay woman,” Johnson said in her video. “I know who I am, and I’m proud and excited to introduce my wife to my family, my wife and my NFL colleagues.”
Lya Vallat, Senior Coordinating Producer at NFL Network, has been “out and proud” since she was 16 years ago. She said that all of her NFL colleagues have created a space in which she feels supported and included.
“Football really is family,” Vallat said in the video. “And as we celebrate National Coming Out Day, I hope that all of you find the support you need to live your true, authentic selves.”
The response to the videos shared by the NFL earlier this week has been a powerful statement of inclusion, each of them told Outsports.
“An outpouring of support, love, identification and allyship from colleagues, friends and family, especially co-workers, both public and private,” Johnson said. “I continue to be amazed by my NFL teammates and how a small gesture to show up authentically and be vulnerable is not only embraced, but also amplified, lifting and centering underrepresented and marginalized communities in sport.”
Vallat shared the same sentiment.
“When the video was released to our NFL employees, I received so many loving and supportive responses from familiar colleagues, to people that I have never met before,” Vallat told Outsports. “To read words like, ‘this was a great way to start my day’ or ‘let’s go Lya’ and ‘ loooove’ made it easy to continue living my truth. Football really is Family.” Outsports – All Posts Read More

Bryan Ruby says his teammates, coaches and fans all had his back as he came out as gay

Bryan Ruby has gotten tons of support across baseball after coming out as gay.

The pro baseball player tells other gay, bi and queer athletes that even if they feel isolated, they are not alone. Bryan Ruby has teamed up with other out people in baseball to launch a new non-profit, Proud To Be In Baseball, to support LGBTQ inclusion in the sport.
I remember the game like it was yesterday.
It was a cold April afternoon in Upstate New York. I was hitting fifth in the batting order, protecting our cleanup guy in midweek collegiate non-conference action.
I took my warm-up swings in the on-deck circle and yelled over to a teammate asking if the opposing pitcher was any good. I’ll never forget his response:
‘Nah, he’s a fucking faggot. Crush it, Ruby!’
To this day, I can’t remember what happened next. All I know is I didn’t have time to react. I was needed at the plate.
In retrospect, I realize I must have blacked out from pure rage. Luckily, the game was being videotaped. The tape shows an outside fastball, a loud ping, and a celebration as I crossed the plate for my first collegiate home run. (Link)
My parents were in town for the game, but I didn’t feel like celebrating the big hit. All I could think was: Why is this language a daily occurrence on the ballfield? After all, I went to queer-friendly Vassar College, and had already quietly come out as gay to a few of my teammates.

Fast forward nearly four years.
As I write this, I am sitting at the desk of a hotel room 3,000 miles from home. I am in a faraway city wrapping up my third season of post-collegiate baseball.
Against all odds, I survived the annual culling-of-the-herd as players age out of college and get real jobs. Now I occupy the unglamorous but enviable position of a journeyman utility infielder-for-hire.
I am no star. I don’t get paid millions or rake in endorsement deals. But I still get to call the ballpark my ‘office’ and feel lucky to lace ‘em up every day.
I’m proud that I’ve made it further than 99% of ballplayers ever get. I’ve hit successfully on three different continents, and have manned my position on the ballfields of Germany, Guatemala, Austria, Chile, Peru, Switzerland and the United States.
Most people don’t even know they have baseball in half of those places.
Being on the road so much has given me a perspective on life and the journeyman lifestyle at large. I was in South America playing exhibition games during Spring Training of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
In a split second, we all lost our jobs. For the first time, I was faced with the genuine possibility that I may never play professional baseball again.
Sleeping on a futon in an oversized closet (both literally and metaphorically) back home in Nashville, I realized that I was deeply unhappy. I had sacrificed so much to live my dream as a baseball player, but in the process had lost touch of who I was inside.
Nobody should have to sacrifice who they are in order to do what they love.
“My teammates caught wind of the symbol and encouraged me to tell my story publicly.”
This past spring I got a spot on an Independent team out of Oregon, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. I decided that once and for all, I wasn’t going to tolerate the mental burden of living a double life at home and at work.
In June, I laced up my cleats with rainbow shoelaces, a small gesture of personal Pride. My teammates caught wind of the symbol and encouraged me to tell my story publicly, sensing that it could be an opportunity for baseball to show how far it’s come in the past few years. I came out publicly in an interview with USA Today shortly thereafter.
It literally couldn’t have gone better.
My teammates, coaches, the fans, the media, our organization, and league management all had my back. From my teammates using Pride Tape to the fans proudly waving rainbow flags when I got up to hit in the playoffs, to the freakin’ LA Dodgers bringing me in to sing the National Anthem before Max Scherzer’s 3,000th career strikeout game, I felt support from every level of the game.
The support has been crazy.
I have never felt this much love in my life.
I am humbled and honored that my story has been shared so publicly these last few weeks. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to fathom that I’d be the guy that got to do this.
Being able to hold up the pride flag in baseball has been the honor of my life.
As I head back to Nashville to begin another offseason of workouts, I am filled with a mountain of gratitude for the people who have supported me along the way.
Since telling my story publicly, I have been asked a lot of questions from other athletes and the media. During this sudden interest, there have been a few key things I have realized.
While I am no ‘expert’ on the topic of coming out in men’s team sports, whoever you are —baseball player or not — maybe these three words of wisdom from your friendly journeyman ballplayer will hit home.
1. Nobody really cares whom you date. As long as you are a good teammate, work hard in practice, bring positive vibes to the ballclub and carry yourself in a professional manner, nobody will have a problem with you. And if for some reason they’re in the minority of people who do, that’s on them.
2. There are a whole lot more queer people in baseball than anybody actually knows about. Trust me. Over the past month I have received messages from players and coaches at all levels of the game. You’ve already heard from one, Kieran Lovegrove, a bisexual Minor League Pitcher who came out last week. There will be more. I can’t wait for the day where coming out doesn’t even have to be a thing.
3. Whoever you are, whatever you are struggling with: You are not alone. Embrace who you are and live your truth. Tell someone you trust when the time is right for you, and you just might find yourself playing your best version of life because of it. Whether you make a living on or off the field-no matter what you do-authenticity can’t lose.
Bryan Ruby is a journeyman baseball player and the subject of the upcoming documentary Out In Nashville. He graduated from Vassar College in 2019, where he was a 2-year team captain and received awards for Leadership and Character. While not traversing the globe playing ball, he lives in Nashville and writes songs for various Country Music Recording artists.
He can be found on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Tik Tok. Also be sure to check out his organization, Proud To Be In Baseball. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Tony Dungy’s tone-deaf defense of Jon Gruden keeps looking worse

Tony Dungy doesn’t need to be talking about Jon Gruden, thank you very much. | Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dungy blinded defended Gruden before his homophobic emails were uncovered. Tony Dungy went on national television and said we should move on from Jon Gruden’s heinous emails.
Those words keep looking worse.
On NBC’s “Football Night in America,” Dungy dismissed Gruden’s racially insulting email about NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith as a singular lapse in judgment. “I’m not gonna chalk everything up to racism,” Dungy said. “I think we accept his apology, move forward and move on just like he did with this team.”
Mike Tirico, who worked with Gruden on “Monday Night Football,” also defended his friend, saying he never saw anything “that would say Jon is racist in any way.” While that may be true, it doesn’t mean Gruden is incapable of using racial stereotypes in private.
We know he freely threw around disgusting anti-gay slurs, thanks to emails uncovered by the New York Times, despite publicly supporting Carl Nassib earlier this year.

Tony Dungy and Mike Tirico are rightfully taking all the Ls after camping for Gruden’s bigoted ass last night pic.twitter.com/xOqChLhNeq— Chris Uno Cero (@ceroto60) October 12, 2021

When Dungy jumped to Gruden’s defense Sunday night, the latest batch of homophobic and misogynistic emails weren’t yet publicized. But it was apparent more could come: Gruden even acknowledged the NFL was investigating the matter.
Given that Gruden called commissioner Roger Goodell a “faggot,” it isn’t surprising some of those hateful missives were published in the New York Times.
Dungy attempted to play clean up Tuesday, tweeting he believes the “Raiders did the appropriate thing in terminating Jon Gruden.”
Still, Dungy’s tweets are littered with caveats. The Hall of Fame coach referred to Gruden’s emails as an “apparent pattern of behavior” and said he would forgive him if he showed “TRUE remorse.”

Ah well no wonder Tony Dungy defended Gruden so vigorously last night— Drew Magary (@drewmagary) October 12, 2021

That’s more than Dungy has shown for his absurd remarks about Michael Sam. Dungy said he wouldn’t have drafted the out NFL prospect, because Sam’s presence would be a distraction. That renowned commentary earned Dungy our Outsports “Asshole of the Year” honor.
When Dungy was asked about his comments, he said he gave an “honest answer.”
Here’s another honest answer: Dungy should refrain from injecting himself into this story. As it turns out, it was the straight head coach, and not the gay player, who was a distraction. Yet, Dungy excused Gruden’s hateful messages.
If only he would’ve granted Sam the same benefit of the doubt for being his true self.
Gruden’s resignation shows the NFL doesn’t tolerate anti-gay bigotry in 2021. But his messages show there remains an atavistic clubby culture around the league. Many of the emails were sent to then-Washington president Bruce Allen, who worked with Gruden in Tampa Bay from 2004-08. Allen is the son of legendary NFL coach George Allen, while Gruden’s father coached at Notre Dame.
Dungy, it’s worth noting, coached the Buccaneers from 1996-01. Gruden replaced him, using his elite defense to a Super Bowl title.
That’s where Dungy should keep his commentary: defense. Blindly defending a buddy who calls people “faggots” is not what we need to hear. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Kieran Lovegrove’s coming out story shows how baseball is ready for openly LGBTQ players

Kieran Lovegrove pitches during the 2018 All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park. His time with Akron that season helped him realize that his teammates would embrace his authentic self. | Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In coming out to his minor league teammates as bisexual, Lovegrove’s example shows how baseball is in a better place than it’s ever been.
When minor league pitcher Kieran Lovegrove recently revealed he had come out as bisexual to his teammates in 2019, I was thrilled.
After Carl Nassib inspired LGBTQ sports enthusiasts everywhere with his historic coming-out, I’d been wondering a lot more than usual when we will finally see an active MLB player do the same.
While I still don’t know the answer to that question, upon hearing Lovegrove tell his story on the 3 Strikes, You’re Out podcast, I can say this with certainty: I have never been more encouraged about the direction baseball is headed.
Even though we at Outsports have demonstrated time and again that LGBTQ athletes have found acceptance and support in every sport, I’ve always worried whether insular and change-resistant culture of baseball added a degree of difficulty that was too much to overcome.
For the first five years of his career, Lovegrove also believed this to be the case and felt he had to assume a false hyper-masculine persona in order to fit in and advance his career. It led him to a very unhealthy place:
“I had spent so many years with this unnecessary chip on my shoulder because I felt like [with] baseball being a business, I needed to be cutthroat, I wasn’t there to make friends,” he said. “Combined with depression and alcoholism, I spent many of those first five years in a really dark headspace.”
Despite his efforts, Lovegrove still didn’t fit in. He eventually fell prey to alcohol abuse and at his lowest point, attempted suicide.
After getting help for his addictions and mental health, he gradually began letting down his guard and showing more of his true self. Then in 2018, while playing for Cleveland’s Double-A team in Akron, he found himself surrounded by a group he described as “teammates who started to accept me for me.”
It was a transformative experience.

Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images
When Kieran Lovegrove joined the Giants organization, he was happy and comfortable as his true self.

The next season, Lovegrove was playing in the Giants organization, and during one of those infamously interminable minor league bus rides, he was discussing music with teammates to pass the time. As he recalled, the subject was probably Harry Styles (“that seems to be my go-to”) or Freddy Mercury…
“I made some off-hand comment and one of my teammates was just like, ‘So what do you identify as? Because you’re not straight, are you?’,” Lovegrove said. “And I was like, ‘No, I’m not. I’m bisexual. I appreciate you asking.’ And everyone was just like, ‘Oh, cool! OK! Cool!’”
“Then we had nine hours left on the bus ride. And from that point, everyone just sort of embraced that as a fact of my life and didn’t treat me any differently because of it.”
After receiving such a life-affiriming response, Lovegrove felt empowered to continue coming out to teammates as he moved from organization to organization during his minor league odyssey. When he began this past season in the Angels’ farm system, his first words of introduction to his new teammates were:
“Hey, my name’s Kieran Lovegrove, I’ve played for these teams … and the last thing you should know, I’m probably the only openly bisexual teammate any of you have ever had. If you have questions about this, please come ask me. That’s how we’re going to foster understanding.”
Again, he found a team full of players whom he says had his back.
“Incredibly supportive and curious,” he said. “And it was an incredible experience. It really made me fall in love with baseball and clubhouse culture again. Because I was finally able to be myself.”
What struck me about Lovegrove’s story was how well it fit in with the Courage is Contagious series on our site. The love and acceptance he found in a minor league baseball clubhouse were just like many of the reactions experienced by the numerous college and high school athletes we spotlight.
As a gay baseball fan, I can’t begin to tell you how overjoyed I was to hear this. In Lovegrove’s story, we have first-hand evidence that the vast majority of players he encountered fully supported and embraced an out teammate.
Less than a decade after players like Lance Berkman and Daniel Murphy were “respected clubhouse presences,” we can say for certain that the game’s culture has changed for the better.
While Lovegrove is modest about his role, he’s now an essential part of making that change happen. By coming out to teammates in several organizations and then revealing it publicly, he has become part of the thread of LGBTQ baseball history connecting Glenn Burke to Billy Bean to David Denson, and now, to his own story.
When a player on the major league level finally comes out, Lovegrove’s bravery and the support of his teammates will have helped create the environment that makes it happen. The game is a better place because of Kieran Lovegrove — and he continues to improve it by pushing for better MiLB living conditions through his work with Advocates for Minor Leaguers.
With much gratitude to him, I can’t wait to see what comes next for my favorite sport.
If you are considering suicide, LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Adults can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day, and it’s available to people of all ages and identities. Trans or gender-nonconforming people can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. Outsports – All Posts Read More

Historic highs, a birth and a berth mark a crowning weekend for Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi’s wild weekend included a berth into the WNBA Finals and the birth of her second child | Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

She was named the WNBA’s “GOAT” and saw her new daughter come into the world, but the Sky rained on the Mercury in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. Amid the bright arena lights at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Diana Taurasi’s shone brightest before the start of Game 1 of the 2021 WNBA Finals.
After a season-long fans vote on the greatest players in WNBA history, the longtime mainstay of the Phoenix Mercury was chosen as the 25-year-old league’s Greatest Of All Time (a.k.a. the “GOAT”).
It’s hard to argue with the selection. She’s the league’s all-time leading scorer with three WNBA championships to go with five Olympic gold medals.
Along with the special award for the occasion, she held up a tiny onesie that read “FUTURE GOAT”.

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
The onesie foretells of future greatness for Taurasi’s newborn daughter? Stay tuned

That was perhaps the summit amid the peaks of a busy weekend.
Friday October 8: Game 5 Against Las Vegas
The deciding game of the semifinals between the Phoenix Mercury and the Las Vegas Aces was a battle between established vets like Taurasi and Brittney Griner, and the next generation of WNBA talent in 2020 MVP A’ja Wilson, this season’s WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Kelsey Plum, and center Liz Cambage.
Tied at 81 with 1:12 left in regulation, Taurasi rolled off a screen to receive a pass from Skylar Diggins-Smith with an open look from three-point range. Fellow Olympian Chelsea Gray could only watch as the shot rattled in. The Mercury lead 84-81.
The Aces promptly worked down the floor where Gray found a good look at the top of the key. She swished it and tied the game. A frantic next minute of near misses followed where neither team could score.
What broke the deadlock was when Taurasi tried to maneuver on a gimpy ankle she’s fought all season and lost the ball with seconds remaining. Shey Peddy, trailing the play, grabbed the loose ball and drew a foul while putting up a desperation three with 4.8 seconds left. She made good on two of three free throws and the Mercury were up, 86-84.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images
Brittney Griner’s last-second block of A’ja Wilson’s chance to tie sent the Mercury to the finals

The Aces had one last chance on an inbound to Wilson, who a had a step on Griner. The veteran center recovered to block Wilson’s attempt to tie, and then grabbed the ball to seal what would be an 87-84 Mercury win.
Looking on from the backcourt was a happy, if hobbled, Taurasi. She had 24 points to complement Griner’s 28-point, 9-rebound effort, but the stats, the stakes, and the waiting Chicago Sky were a secondary concern.
Her last remark of her post game interview to ESPN revealed the primary concern. A message to her wife, and retired WNBA star — now Mercury director of development and performance — Penny Taylor: “Hold it in, babe. I’m coming!”

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Taurasi sprinted out of Las Vegas to hurry back to Phoenix to see her second child come into the world

Saturday October 9: “GOAT #2”
Taurasi left on a private flight from Las Vegas back to Phoenix. She arrived just in time see her wife give birth to a baby girl. She is their second child, joining their son, Leo, born in 2018.
The Phoenix Mercury Twitter cried out the happy news:

At 4:24 am baby GOAT #2 arrived. Congratulations to Dee and Penny on the birth of their beautiful, healthy baby girl. #FamilyOf4TheValley— Phoenix Mercury – X (@PhoenixMercury) October 9, 2021

‘’It’s been a pretty eventful last two days,’’ Taurasi told the Associated Press. ‘’What we got done in Vegas was no easy feat. That was a very difficult game that we found ourselves winning and then obviously flying home and getting the best win ever, a healthy daughter and a healthy wife.’’
She wouldn’t have long to celebrate the new arrival. The next day would be Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. Their opponents, the Chicago Sky, eliminated the Connecticut Sun in four games in their semifinal. They were rested, ready, and they had a seven-year score to settle.
In 2014, the Sky and the Mercury met in the WNBA finals. Taylor was a backcourt mate with Taurasi back then. Elena Delle Donne was the Sky’s spear carrier alongside “the VanderQuigs”. Griner was dueling in the paint with Sylvia Fowles, who was playing for her old college coach, Pokey Chatman.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Griner and Taurasi led the Mercury to a 2014 WNBA title in a three-game sweep of the Sky

That final ended with the Mercury sweeping the Sky in three games and Taurasi was WNBA Finals MVP.
Some of the names have changed for both teams, but one superstar name joins the fray now. At the start of the 2021 season the Sky brought perennial all-star Candace Parker back to her hometown.
Some feel she should have been named to the GOAT honor the fans gave Taurasi.

Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
After a stellar career with the Los Angeles Sparks, Candace Parker was brought to Chicago to give a young team a veteran push to a title

Sunday October 10: This is not 2014
The Mercury held their home court through the first quarter leading, 25-20. The second quarter, and rest of the game, belonged to the Sky.
Parker, along with Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, powered a 17-0 second quarter surge that left the weary Mercury reeling by halftime. In the second half Keelah Copper made her presence known, leading all scorers with 21 points. Stephanie Dolson came off the bench to score 14, and add to the defensive help on Griner.

Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images
With the addition of Candace Parker the Sky got the upper head in Game 1 as they seek their first WNBA title

With 16 points and 8 rebounds, Parker put numbers on the board, but her greatest influence was as a steady veteran presence for the Sky. She was also an added defensive hedge against Taurasi, who had 17 points, but also had 6 turnovers.
The Sky won the opener 91-77, and afterward Taurasi wouldn’t have any excuses about fatigue. “We can’t turn the ball over like that especially not in the Finals. That’s just me being a bad basketball player,” she said to AZ Central. “We’ll adjust some things and hopefully we’ll be in better positions to get out of those traps on the court.”
The Sky take the early lead in the WNBA Finals with Game 2 set for Wednesday in Phoenix. Yet even for a battle-hardened Taurasi, a new arrival takes a little bit of the sting out of being down 1 games to none.
“Penny is unbelievable, and she’s the cutest, healthiest little girl, so we’re really happy.” Outsports – All Posts Read More