"Out on the Fields" receives support from Michael Sam to round out responses from US LGBT athletes
8 August 2014 - Gay Games 9, which open tomorrow in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, will offer thousands of LGBT athletes the opportunity to take part in the first major international survey on homophobia in sports. They will be supported by Michael Sam of the St Louis Rams, one of the world’s highest profile LGBT athletes, who is urging people to take part in the groundbreaking study. The study is the first to collect data about discrimination in the United States as well as other English-speaking countries, offering a baseline for comparisons between countries and over time. This will help researchers determine both the extent of the problem internationally as well as which countries are doing the best job at creating sports cultures that are welcoming and safe to lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.
Michael Sam appears in a video alongside sports stars from US, UK and Australia. These include British-born rugby players Sam and Tom Burgess, World Cup US/Australian soccer player Sarah Walsh, international rugby player and LGBT rights advocate David Pocock, and ‘Aussie Rules’ player and LGBT rights advocate Brock McLean.
Researchers conducting the “Out on the Fields” study are hoping for at least 500 more people in the United States and the UK to take part in the study to reach their target of 2000 people from each country. The thousands of participants and spectators at Gay Games 9, which run through 16 August, are expected to play a big role in reaching this target. Participants from other countries are welcome, in particular from the large Canadian delegation arriving in Ohio. The study is open to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or whether they have played sports. It takes around 10 minutes to complete online at www.outonthefields.com
“We're supporting this historic study because it has the potential to provide a much clearer understanding of the extent and nature of homophobia in sports. As we prepare for opening ceremony of Gay Games 9, we recall that since their founding by Olympian Dr Tom Waddell more than 30 years ago, the Gay Games have been a powerful tool against homophobia in sport, with thousands of out recreational athletes paving the way for recent high-profile coming outs like those of Michael Sam. But these should not hide how endemic the problem of homophobia remains,” said Les Johnson, Vice-President of Membership of the Federation of Gay Games.
“Everyone has had a unique experience, which is why it is essential that we encourage a large number of LGBT people to share their stories, whether or not they themselves have played sports or experienced discrimination. We encourage everyone at Gay Games 9 to visit our booth at the Festival Village to learn more,” added Johnson.
Federation Vice-President for External Affairs Marc Naimark noted that the survey was just one part of the efforts of the FGG to use the Gay Games to promote knowledge and awareness of such issues: “As of Gay Games IV in 1994, there has been a conference of some sort at every Gay Games, bringing together those who study LGBT sport and culture with those who practice it. At Gay Games 9, there is a conference is underway on LGBT health research underway at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, as is a medical seminar on LGBT athletes hosted by the Cleveland Clinic. And next week the Game Change conference aimed at educators will take place at the University of Akron. Participants are welcome to all these events, where Out on the Fields will be among the topics of discussion.”
The study was commissioned by organizers of the Bingham Cup, the world cup of gay rugby, being held in Sydney later this month. It is being conducted pro bono by sports research firm Repucom in consultation with researchers from six universities, including Pennsylvania State and the University of Massachusetts. Partners include the Federation of Gay Games, the You Can Play Project, the Australian Sports Commission and FGG member organization IGRAB (International Gay Rugby Association and Board), the governing body for the Bingham Cup, whose president will be presenting initial results at the FGG Annual General Assembly. Full results will be released later this year.
Dr. Sue Rankin, a retired professor from Pennsylvania State University, is a pioneer of research into homophobia in sports. She is one of the experts reviewing the study and its results. “We’ve been really pleased with the number of people who have already taken part in the study and shared their stories, particularly men in Australia and the United States. We are on track for 'Out on the Fields' to be the largest study ever done on this issue. Having said this, as a former woman athlete and coach, I strongly encourage more women, in particular, to take part so we gain a broad picture of the entire LGBT community.”