Opinion guest column

Athletes and allies

All athletes deserve respect

We are athletes. We are teammates. We are allies. April 20, also known as the Day of Silence, is the national day to take a stand against homophobic bullying, and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) would like to take a moment to say why it’s important to have allies in athletics.

At MIT, one can see “You are Welcome Here” cards hanging in office windows. Efforts like this are simple, but they put the issue of homophobia and transphobia into a very public spotlight. MIT’s “You are Welcome Here” campaign includes education and awareness programming for the MIT community, too.

To some, the link between athletics and LBGTQ rights may not be obvious. This is where programs like Athlete Ally come in. Hudson Taylor, who founded Athlete Ally in January 2011, was a three-time All-American wrestling student at the University of Maryland. When Taylor, a heterosexual athlete, wore a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his wrestling helmet, he was taking a stand. For too long, athletics have tolerated derogatory comments towards the LBGT community as typical “locker room chat.”

On Feb. 16, Taylor visited MIT in an event co-sponsored by LGBT@MIT, SAAC, DAPER, SAO, Residential Life, and the FSILG office. Over 100 students were in attendance, most of them varsity athletes. But Athlete Ally is not just for varsity athletes. Coaches, parents, fans, club sports teams, intramural sports teams, and the spontaneous group that forms on Killian Court to play Frisbee can all take something away from Taylor’s message.

A pledge on the Athlete Ally website (http://www.athleteally.com/) has over 5,000 signatures already. It reads:

I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Beginning right now, I will do my part to promote the best of athletics by making all players feel respected on and off the field.

In 51 words, the pledge says what needs to be said. No matter what, your team depends on your teamwork, leadership, and discipline. Not your nationality. Not your age. Not your sexual orientation. The SAAC will be in Lobby 7 today distributing Athlete Ally stickers and collecting signatures for the pledge. We encourage you to take a stand and become an ally.

Maggie Lloyd is a contributing editor for The Tech writing on behalf of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.