August 29, 2013 | by Stephen Rutgers
DC teams ahead of the pack on gay support
Night Out at the Nationals, Washington Nationals, baseball, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. is a leader when it comes to support of gay fans. About 4,000 turned out for a recent Night Out at the Nationals event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With support for LGBT athletes growing, some cities’ teams do a better job than others of walking the walk.

Baltimore Orioles fans, for example, are still waiting for a team-sanctioned LGBT appreciation night. The situation is much better in D.C.

Professional soccer team DC United was the first D.C. team and first Major League Soccer (MLS) team to make a You Can Play video in support of LGBT players. In an interview, midfielder John Thorrington, told the Blade, “MLS has done a very good job in spreading a very inclusive message and has become more and more LGBT friendly. I believe this has been a conscious effort that the league and players are behind.”

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When asked if having a gay player on DC United would change anything with the team, especially in the locker room, he said, “a locker room is a place where you make everyone feel included and build team chemistry.”

Midfielder Chris Pontius added in an interview with the Blade, “it is common knowledge that we would accept a person for who they are. As a player you accept them as they are as a player.” Both said anything other than respect would not be tolerated by the organization.

The Washington Nationals are a fan favorite in the LGBT community and the team supports one of the largest LGBT sports nights in the country.

“We look for players who have the skills and athleticism to win baseball games and the sexuality of a player is never part of our scouting reports,” Mike Rizzo, Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager, told the Blade. “In our eyes, teammates are teammates and everyone has equal standing here at Nationals Park.”

Former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins came out earlier this year. There are dozens of interviews and quotes from his former Wizard teammates supporting him. The Wizards sent the Blade a statement from President Ernie Grunfeld that read, “We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”

Ted Leonsis, founder and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Capitals, told the Blade in a statement that his company supports the LGBT community.

“Monumental Sports & Entertainment and its teams are committed to fostering a supportive environment for our players, fans, employees and their families,” Leonsis said in the statement. “Equality and diversity are two important components in sports culture – and in life – and the Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Verizon Center each embrace an atmosphere where all are welcome. We encourage players to feel comfortable with their orientation and are proud to stand in support of the LGBT community.”

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is one of the most popular players in the NFL. In a recent interview with GQ magazine, he said this about gay players: “Yeah, man. I think there are [gay players] right now, and if they’re looking for a window to just come out, I mean, now is the window.” The Redskins organization did not return a request for comment on its stance or preparations for gay players.

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