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LGBT Athletes Still Experience Harassment and Discrimination

Posted by Kathy Harrington-Sullivan | Jul 02, 2016 | 0 Comments

Even with the recent number of LGBT professional athletes “coming out,” and becoming actively and openly gay in their respective sports, there is still much progress to be made. Most LGBT athletes find it challenging to be open about their sexual orientation, largely due the potential of being harassed and singled out by fellow teammates. Harassment and discrimination of LBGT athletes extends beyond pro players.

Most athletes develop their views about LGBT people, in general, in high school and college. Traditionally, in these environments coaches tend to follow a policy similar to the repealed “Don't Ask Don't Tell” military policy. Coaches do not have a problem with the sexual orientation of their players, but prefer the players do not openly discuss, share, or mention their sexual orientation and preferences in the locker room or with their teammates.

High school and college athletes who have “come out” tend to find they are harassed by their teammates in various ways, like with derogatory comments, unwanted sexual harassment, offensive jokes, and other negative responses. Further, in some cases, openly gay athletes are intentionally isolated by their teammates, or even attacked, based solely upon their sexual orientation and identity.

Once a student “comes out,” coaches and school systems are faced with challenges about what to do with the individual. In many cases, teammates might say they are uncomfortable with having an openly gay athlete in the locker room, which results in having to make special provisions for the individual. Additionally, some teammates act more aggressive toward an openly gay athlete on the practice field and during games.

For instance, they might intentionally push, hit, tackle, trip, or attempt to injure the player in hopes it will result in them not being able to play for an extended period of time. In other cases, they may feel the brunt of harassment on the field with negative slurs about their sexuality, or the other players not wanting to pass the ball to them. When these types of behaviors occur on the field, coaches are left benching the gay athlete and limiting the amount of time they get to play in games.

Fortunately, things are slowly progressing, even though it is usually difficult and hard to adjust the attitudes of people. High schools and universities can help further support LGBT athletes by creating a visible presence and educating other students about harassment and discrimination.

Some schools openly support LGBT events on campus and even have student alliances to help unite students, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity. With more professional athletes “coming out” and being supported by their coaches and teammates, it also helps change attitudes about LBGT athletes.

Harassment and discrimination for being an openly gay athlete has specific legal ramifications, as it violates an individual's civil rights. If you or a loved one are an openly LGBT athlete and are being harassed or discriminated against, it is worth your time to consult with qualified sex and gender discrimination lawyers in Atlanta, or your local city, to find out your legal rights and get answers to your questions. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact the law firm of Barrett & Farahany, LLP by calling (404) 238-7299 today.

About the Author

Kathy Harrington-Sullivan

Kathy Harrington Sullivan is a Partner at Barrett & Farahany who helps potential clients understand the law, clarify their rights, and determine which steps they can take to protect themselves and their jobs.


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