Queers in Sport: A new human rights frontier?

There has been a lot of cultural teeth gnashing over homophobia in sport in recent years.  Although queers have exited the closet in vast numbers in the last 30 years, the world of sport has remained a troubled space for queer athletes.  The tide is turning however, and the sports world has begun to reflect internally on homophobia and how its norms and expectations have created barriers to diversity.

High profile professional athletes have been coming out of the closet in dribs and drabs sometimes provoking a backlash within the establishment.  For example, last year Calgary Stampeder, Maurice Price, tweeted offensive comments linked to Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team.  The team quickly distanced themselves from the tweet and Price was later fined by the CFL.

Nevertheless, locally we are making great strides in tackling this human rights frontier.  Brian Burke, the Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations, started the You Can Play project in 2012 with the aim of eliminating homophobia in sport.   Both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta have designated academic resources towards this area – in fact, just this week the U of A released a video announcing its You Can Play partnership.  {In a small-world-strange-twist, the video was produced by my brother, Jeff Allen, who runs an Edmonton video production company.}

Universities continue to be in the vanguard in pushing for our rights and visibility as a community.  We will be exploring this theme further at our U of C presentation next Thursday.  Please join us.


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