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Swimming against the tide

Pioneer athlete Evan Cobb recalls college career



Evan Cobb, gay news, Washington Blade
Evan Cobb, gay news, Washington Blade

Evan Cobb came out as a varsity swimmer at Oberlin College years before it was trendy. (Photo courtesy Cobb)

The LGBT sports movement has gained a lot of steam over the past few years. With diversity training and support coming from athlete outreach programs such as Changing the Game, Athlete Ally, You Can Play and Go! Athletes, the evolution of accepting an out athlete into a team situation has progressed rapidly.

A lot of the new dynamic has been accomplished through the changing attitudes in sports leadership. Coaches, athletic directors and sports team managers are feeling the social responsibility to create safe environments for their athletes.

The result of these changes is that more athletes are starting to come out, but we wouldn’t be where we are now without the athletes who stepped forward in the past.

In the collegiate setting, one of the early athlete pioneers was Evan Cobb, a varsity swimmer from Oberlin College who voluntarily came out during the first few months of his freshman year in 1997.

Cobb, from Fredonia, N.Y., was directed to the small liberal arts college in Ohio by an aunt who was involved with the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin. She believed that the left- leaning countercultural atmosphere of the campus would offer Cobb the opportunity to thrive.

His aunt was right about the vibe on the Oberlin campus and Cobb decided to come out to his coach, Dick Michaels, in October of 1997.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Cobb says. “When I walked into his office, he looked up at me and said, ‘You have been missing practices. What’s up?’”

Cobb went on to have a positive athletic college experience and still thinks of Michaels as one of the most important mentors in his life. What he didn’t know at the time was that Michaels’ own son had come out just a few days earlier.

A year later, in Cobb’s sophomore year, Michael Muska was hired as athletic director at Oberlin College and was quickly outed by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is believed that Muska was the first openly gay athletic director in a collegiate setting.

Westboro Baptist Church threatened to protest at the college but once again the tradition of openness and tolerance at Oberlin prevailed as the college stood behind its new athletic director.

The incident drew the attention of ESPN, which included Muska in a segment of its series “Outside the Lines.” Cobb also appeared in the segment along with high school football player and wrestler, Greg Congdon, who received terrible backlash after being outed.

“I appeared in the segment talking with my face blurred out,” Cobb says. “It felt incongruous to appear that way, but my younger brother had not been told yet that I was gay and I didn’t want him to find out on television.”

One thing that hasn’t changed as a result of the LGBT sports movement is the questions that are being asked by the media — the same questions Cobb was asked 17 years ago.

Is there sexual tension? Is there homophobia? What is it like in the locker room?

For Cobb, there was never a problem in the locker room at his own college. He says he did experience stress when the team competed at away meets, but he attributes that more to the heightened feeling of jock culture at the other colleges than to gay stigma.

At the time, the ESPN segment didn’t receive much buzz and there wasn’t the expected ripple effect. The media frenzy over the Michael Sam kiss last year points to how things have changed over the years.

Cobb went on to do his graduate work at Yale and moved to New York City in 2010. Now 35, he is working as a community manager for corporate affairs and is happily competing for the LGBT swim team Team New York Aquatics.

In 2011, he responded to a posting from Dr. Truett Vaigneur who was looking for participants to appear in an educational documentary about how being an athlete forms the identity of a gay man in terms of masculinity and self-esteem.

The resulting film “The University Pool” showcases three former collegiate swimmers who are gay and addresses how their experiences defined them.

“I think my positive college experience actually gave the film a different feel,” Cobb says. “My acceptance at Oberlin points to the power of leadership.”

Following the release of the film, the participants, including LGBT sports leaders Hudson Taylor, Jeff Kagan and Colin Joyner, appeared in panel discussions at universities and were able to interact with current students.

“I consider it to be one of the greatest privileges of my life that I was able to compete in collegiate sports as an openly gay man,” Cobb says. “I am very happy to be a part of the continuing cycle of what it is like to be an open college athlete.”

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team



Courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS — The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden resigned his post Monday after an article in the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the National Football League, (NFL).

The emails were discovered in a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team the Times reported, but ended up costing Gruden his job when they also showed Gruden denounced the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem among other issues.

In a statement released by the team late Monday, Gruden said; “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

The sequence of events started last Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to the Washington team’s former executive Bruce Allen.

According to the Associated Press, Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” about Smith, saying they were made out of frustration over the 2011 lockout. But the latest emails sent from between 2011-18 when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN show his use of derogatory language went well beyond that.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the emails to the Associated Press and said they were sent to the Raiders last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t made the emails public.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both noted that Gruden used a gay slur to insult Goodell and said he was “clueless” and “anti-football.” He also said Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag Gay City News Editor Matt Tracy reported.

Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a statement which only said that he accepted Gruden’s resignation. In a separate statement the Raiders announced that special teams and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will serve as Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, effective immediately.

“Coach Bisaccia will meet with the media at the regularly scheduled media availability on Wednesday,” the team said.

According to ESPN and the Associated Press, Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 19 seasons with the Raiders, Chargers, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He has no head coaching experience but his elevation will allow other assistants in the Raiders organization such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to stay in their current roles.

Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach | SC with SVP

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New Zealand university names trans athlete ‘sportswoman of the year’

Laurel Hubbard is first out trans woman to compete in Olympics



Screenshot via CBS Sports

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named “sportswoman of the year” at the prestigious 113-year-old University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards event this past week.

The 43-year-old Queenstown, South Island, native was the first openly transgender woman to compete in an Olympics when she competed in the women’s 87kg weightlifting event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In a statement to the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.’’

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha [a Māori word meaning “love”] of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,’’ she told the paper.

Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as she had prepared for competing as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Richard Budgett, directly addressed those who had attacked and mocked the New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey told the Otago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

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Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games

An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels



Tom Daley (Photo by via Bigstock)

LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus.

Daley told the paper “[my] lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.”

He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave specific instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed off to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing.

He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly.

When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number]

‘My oxygen levels were dropping’

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported.

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley.

“I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”

He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his sport wouldn’t know.

The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games.

After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25.

It was the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.

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