The Minnesota Vikings hosted a summit yesterday to start the conversation on helping create a positive and inclusive atmosphere for LGBTQ athletes.
Chris Hine of the Star-Tribune reported on the multi-sport summit that included 60 different organizations, 14 NFL and collegiate teams, and other local teams that include the Timberwolves, Lynx, and Wild. The importance of starting the conversation for the topic is not lost on all the attendees, including Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren. He has said that this is not a one-time occasion for the team and he hopes to have summits like this in the future.
Brian Kitts, co-founder of You Can Play, an organization that supports LGBTQ athletes said, “You have to take steps or have to start a conversation, and I think the Vikings doing this sends an important signal in sports and in football to fans and athletes alike. Consistency and patience are key to this. This is a long game, and it’s easy to expect immediate change. These sorts of things take years, but nothing happens until you have that first conversation.”
This summit was a first step to start the conversation of how to create an atmosphere that makes LGBTQ athletes feel accepted in the locker room, whether they have disclosed their sexuality or not. One of the first steps that the panels discussed was to be aware of language. Athlete Ally, a non-profit whose goal is to eliminate homophobia in sports, was one of the organizations involved and who spoke on the power of language. Hudson Taylor, co-founder of Athlete Ally, said “I was taught to use homophobic language to diminish my peers. I think that goes on in locker rooms around the country. … We all need to do a better job of saying what’s acceptable, what behaviors and language are acceptable.”
Chris Kluwe, former punter for the Vikings, also spoke about the importance of the summit. “This is one of the things where I think once teams understand why this is an important issue and how it benefits them to deal with LGBTQ rights … I think we’ll see some serious change and adoption of policy happening.”
And Minnesota is starting to see the importance of inclusion and they aren’t just waiting for the near future to do so. The Vikings will have a booth at Pride in Minneapolis all weekend and hopefully the conversation can continue to move forward.