Local Gay Leader Pens Letter to Athletes

Philly's Brian Sims writes about coming out in sports

Courtesy of Brian Sims

As a former NCAA football captain and president of Equality Pennsylvania, Brian Sims has spent much time fighting for gay rights throughout the Commonwealth. He’s also hoping to help change peoples’ attitudes about what it means to be gay in sports.

Sims, an athlete himself, recently penned an open letter to professional athletes for the Advocate, saying, “Years ago we started learning that the attitudes of young Americans about gay people were changing dramatically. Americans under 40 have seen out, gay people at most levels of community, government and media for over half our lives.”

He said that with the changing perceptions about LGBT people comes the responsibility of gay athletes to also take up the cause and come out. In his letter, he also challenges heterosexual teammates to support their gay friends and to lead by example, the same way they lead on the field.

“America’s young people and America’s sports fans know there are gay and lesbian athletes at all level of sports,” he writes. “They have said they will support them when they come out. They’ve said those athletes would be courageous for coming out. You want the best players on your team, and you want to play the best players. Start telling your teammates, coaches and fans that you support your gay teammates.”

Sims talked to G Philly about what inspired him to write the piece. “I wrote it following a conversation with Matt Breen, the Advocate’s editor, about anti-gay behavior among sports fans,” says Sims. “I tend to think they’re mirroring what they believe are the anti-gay beliefs of the athletes they’re watching, but they don’t actually know that most professional athletes are not anti-gay.”

He also explained why he thinks sports is an important frontier in the fight for gay rights in America. “Like members of the military and people of faith, athletes are somehow not expected to be allies,” he says, “and yet most professional athletes have graduated from college and traveled quite a bit – two characteristics common in many straight allies.” He says their dedication to their sport, their education and world experiences make them much more enlightened, potential spokespeople for this important civil rights cause.