To my LGBTQ friends, colleagues and readers …

I’m not going to lie. I grew up with a backwards attitude. Yeah, Athens is a college town, but it’s still in Georgia. At both my rough-and-tumble public school and my vaguely Christian-ish (and generally wonderful) private school, homophobia reigned. “Gay” meant “weak.”

It took me a few years to realize that I knew gay people. Those guys we knew in Savannah who lived together with their bulldogs? Yeah. My relative who only married a woman as a business deal of sorts? Yeah.

In college, I met plenty of people who were out. And my attitude changed.

College will do that to you if you go to the right place. My perceptions on Muslims changed. I had known a couple of Jewish neighbors at home, but now I was seeing observances of all the holidays and learning much more about the religion and the culture. And I met gay people, some of whom didn’t conform to any stereotype that had been instilled in me in Athens.

I don’t think I actively hated anyone growing up. But I was ignorant. Surely insensitive at times.

And my attitude on sexual identity was still framed by my church and the “muscular Christianity” youth groups that had taught me to play football very well and soccer very badly. I needed a few years out in the real world to see that things weren’t always what a hyper-literal and biased interpretation of the Bible could make them seem.

At the same time, I’d always been open to women’s sports. I went to women’s basketball games at Duke when maybe 200 people would show up. I had friends on the volleyball team and soccer team. I nearly got in a fight at N.C. State during a volleyball match. (Those guys were jerks.)

So whenever I’ve been in sports journalism, in and out over the last 25 years, I’ve covered women’s sports, ranging from UNC Wilmington basketball games that no one saw and Women’s World Cup games that packed stadiums in Germany.

And through the years, acceptance of gay players and fans has grown. At UNC Wilmington, there were occasional whispers. Now I cover soccer teams with multiple lesbian players and a large LGBTQ fan base.

Why am I talking about this now?

Because we just had an election, and I see a lot of people who are scared. I think the gay-bashing rhetoric we saw in the election has little change of becoming law, but a lot of hateful people now feel empowered, and that’s legitimately frightening.

So I’m writing now to say this …

I’ve got your back.

Maybe 30 years ago, when I was a naive high school kid in Georgia, I wouldn’t have said that. I wouldn’t have understood why it was important to say it.

And even today, I have to limit my political statements for a variety of reasons. I’m not going to argue federal income tax with anyone.

But today I understand that basic human decency means treating people with dignity. So if anyone tries to invalidate the lives and loves of their fellow human beings, I will speak up.

Yell at me about my women’s soccer coverage. That’s fine. We have controversies. But just know that when it comes to what’s really important, I’m on your side.

My favorite tweet of the past two days:

Joanna Lohman is a lot stronger than most of us. She’s certainly stronger than I am, so I doubt she really needs my help.

But I’ve got her back. And yours. And yours.


What next for Rapinoe protest?

Not another 1,000-word essay, but too complicated for 140 characters on Twitter …

The Spirit game this weekend at Seattle will surely be interesting. But I think all eyes are going to be on Columbus on Thursday, when the USWNT plays Thailand.

I have to distinguish between two sentiments here:

Personally, I would have no issue with Rapinoe or her teammates taking a knee during the anthem. And if I were covering the game, I’d happily ask her afterwards if she feels she’s making any progress getting the country to learn and talk more about race.

Pragmatically, I fear the worst if Rapinoe kneels during the anthem. We have to recognize that some people are offended by protests during the anthem, whether we agree with them or not. To do so while wearing a U.S. uniform raises issues that don’t exist when she’s representing the Seattle Reign. It’s like arguing within a family vs. arguing about your family in front of other people. I know plenty of people in the non-Twitterverse — including many who would otherwise sympathize with everything Megan Rapinoe says — who would have a serious problem with protesting during the anthem while repping the country.

Again (repeating because I feel people really want to focus on the parts with which they disagree, which is actually an extreme example of what I talked about in last night’s post), I have to stress that I personally would not be offended. Though it’s not a First Amendment issue (the Constitution does not guarantee employment), I think the free expression of kneeling outweighs the symbolism of the national anthem. (Which, in my eyes, is not a memorial to fallen veterans, and I think it’s a stretch for Bill Lynch to construe it as such.)

But pragmatically, would kneeling during the anthem at a USWNT game further Rapinoe’s cause of trying to open a discussion of race relations? That discussion has been … well, hijacked. What’s the next step forward? Bow in prayer as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did?

I’m open to being convinced that it would work. Maybe she would be like Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics — vilified at the time but now seen as taking a heroic stand.

I’m skeptical. But I’m ready to listen.

I know some people would say, “Damn the consequences! Speak and act as you see fit!” But that’s what Bill Lynch did Wednesday, and I don’t think it did any good at all. PR consultants may get a bad rap, but sometimes, we need to listen to them.


“Fantastic Lies” and the lessons of Duke lacrosse

Don’t stereotype. Don’t rush to judgment. Those are the lessons of the Duke lacrosse case from 10 years ago. And to my pleasant surprise, the documentary Fantastic Lies covered those lessons pretty well.

Source: “Fantastic Lies” and the lessons of the Duke lacrosse case | SportsMyriad

March 23, 2016

Did I waste my college opportunity?

I actually wound up not going to my Duke reunion, for reasons that had nothing to do with this piece in which I question how I spent my time in college and which classes I took. I hope Duke’s advising has improved since then. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. (Well, almost anything.)

Source: Did I waste my college opportunity? | Mostly Modern Media

Feb. 17, 2016

Flat-Earthers are back

Oh, this was entertaining. I’ve spent years being hounded by soccer people who refuse to listen to any evidence they don’t like. That got me wondering about the Flat Earth movement, which is small but quite lively.

This piece was shared more than 20,000 times.

Source: Flat-Earthers are back: ‘It’s almost like the beginning of a new religion’ | Science | The Guardian

Jan. 20, 2016

Culture writing: 2008-2015

Selected pieces on music, journalism, TV, academia and life in general …