With 2015 just around the corner, let’s take a look back on some of the biggest stories in les/bi sports from 2014. Two gay men, Jason Collins and Michael Sam, got most of the mainstream press this year but we found plenty of stories about the les/bi women who competed, came out, got married, and made headlines this year in sports.
Coming into 2014, we anticipated the Olympics in Sochi, Russia would be the biggest story of the year. We weren’t wrong. There wasn’t much at the Olympics that wasn’t controversial (homophobic laws, stolen orcas, plans to kill all stray dogs, athletes having to bust out of bathrooms that locked them in, yeah all that happened). Many people focused on the ludicrously discriminatory laws Russia passed last year such as a law prohibiting anyone from suggesting that maybe, you know, being gay wasn’t such a bad thing. The result were protests both big and small.
When it came time to choose a delegation, President Obama looked around and selected the biggest gay sports icon of the last century, Billie Jean King. When BJK had to bow out because her mother was ill, Caitlin Cahow stepped into her shoes. What better way to tell Putin he’s a horse’s ass than to choose out gay people to represent our country? Other protests included athletes showing rainbows on their clothes, or displaying “Principle 6” as a nod to the Olympic charter which protects athletes from discrimination.
There were six out Olympians competing in the games. Dutch speed skating superstar, Irene Wüst captured five medals. Austrian ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz took home the silver medal in the women’s individual normal hill competition. Four other athletes, Dutch speed skater, Sanne van Kerkof, Aussie snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis, Slovenian cross country skier Barbara Jezersek, and Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Mass competed well but landed off the podium.
This summer, Canadian hockey player (four time Olympian and gold medal winner in Sochi) Charline Labonté came out.
In the wake of the Olympics there has been a renewed call to ensure that future Olympic hosts are countries that comply with the anti-discrimination tenets of the Olympic charter. Hopefully the IOC will learn a lesson from awarding the games to a country with a less than stellar human rights record. However, I won’t be holding my breath.
World Cup Player sue FIFA ahead of World Cup in Canada
While we’re discussing the IOC, let’s talk about another out-of-touch governing body. FIFA will hold the Women’s World Cup this coming summer in Canada. While Canada is a lovely country filled with wonderful (and very polite) people it is making the spectacularly bad decision to host the World Cup on artificial turf. Out soccer superstars, Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe are among the players who have signed on to the lawsuit which alleges that FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup on artificial turf is discriminatory. The World Cup begins on June 5 2015 so we will be watching this case closely in the coming months.
Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury take WNBA championship
In spite of a recent knife attack in China, which left Brittney Griner with a cut on her arm, 2014 was a good year for her. Her team, the Phoenix Mercury beat the Chicago Sky to capture the 2014 WNBA championship. The team, led by Diana Taurasi and Griner, lost only five games during the regular season. The team only dropped one game during the playoffs before sweeping Chicago. Their dominant run has put the team in the consideration as one of the best of all time.
If that wasn’t enough awesome for one year, Griner asked Glory Johnson to marry her and she said yes! Everything is coming up Griner.
Casey Stoney comes out and becomes a mom
In February, the captain of England’s Women’s Soccer team, Casey Stoney, came out. Stoney said her teammates and the larger soccer world has known for a while that she is a lesbian but that she felt the time was right for her to speak out publicly. Stoney used the attention her coming garnered to speak out on the idiocy of FIFA and the IOC awarding the World Cup and the Olympics to countries in which gay players are not welcome. In November, Stoney’s partner, Megan Harris, gave birth to twins, Teddy and Tilly. Congratulations, Casey and Megan and welcome to the world, Teddy and Tilly.
Rugby World Cup
This August, the Women’s Rugby World Cup was held in France. England ended up taking the World Cup with a win in the final over Canada. In the wake of the World Cup, the out captain of the United States’ team, Jillion Potter, was diagnosed with cancer. Rugby is sometimes best known for its tight knit community. In the wake of Potter’s diagnosis, the team and the community has rallied around Potter and her wife, Carol. In addition to offering moral support, the team has set up a fund to support Potter defray the incidental costs not covered by her medical insurance. We send Jillion and her wife all of our best wishes and hope for a complete recovery.
Work to be done
While there was much good news, and comings out this year, there was also dispiriting news in the world of les/bi sports. Recently, the University of Minnesota-Duluth decided not to renew the contracts of its legendary head coach, Shannon Miller and her staff. While the university claims it is solely a cost-cutting measure, the story doesn’t quite add up when it comes to the out coach.
Also discouraging are the facts alleged by two lesbians on the Pepperdine University basketball team. The players, Haley Videckis and Layana White, allege that their coach discriminated against them for being gay and in a relationship with each other. Coach Ryan Weisenberg allegedly stated “lesbianism is not tolerated on this team. Lesbianism is a big concern in women’s basketball.” Pepperdine conducted an investigation and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to back of the players’ claims. Both players have since left Pepperdine. We will be keeping an eye on both stories in the coming year.
Martina Navratilova Pops the Question at the U.S Open
We’re going to end this post on a happy note. Martina Navratilova is used to making headlines on the court. But this year she made headlines for something she did at the U.S. Open. Navratilova proposed to her girlfriend, Julia Lemigova, on the jumbotron at the nationally-televised tennis tournament. Last week, the couple tied the knot in New York City.
What sports stories did you love this year?