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HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN AND IT TAKES A TEAM! TO HOST NCAA FINAL FOUR WEEKEND PANEL ON GAYS IN SPORTS

News release:

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2007) – At this year’s NCAA Men’s Final Four weekend in Atlanta, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and It Takes a Team! – a project of Billie Jean King’s Women in Sports Foundation – present a panel discussion designed to continue the dialogue about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes at all levels, from high school to the pros.  The panel, to take place on March 30th at 11:00 am at the Inforum in downtown Atlanta, will include John Amaechi, Billy Bean, Joey Fisher, David Kopay, Terri O’Connell and Esera Tuaolo.

“With his announcement this spring, John Amaechi reignited the dialogue in this country about openly gay athletes,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “We believe that GLBT and straight athletes all benefit from respectful, open competition.  As sports fans from around the nation will be watching the NCAA Final Four games in Atlanta, we want to bring this conversation to them.”

The panel is being supported by Nike, a longtime partner with HRC and a strong supporter of workplace equality.

“Sports is a metaphor for life and should be about inclusion and equality. I applaud HRC, Nike, ESPN and the Women’s Sports Foundation for enabling this debate,” said Sheryl Swoopes, WNBA champion from the Houston Comets and a Nike athlete.

“It’s essential that we maintain an open discourse in an effort to eradicate homophobia throughout the world,” said the HRC’s Coming Out Project Spokesperson and panelist John Amaechi.  “Specifically in the arena of sports, this discussion must continue until gay athletes are viewed and treated without prejudice.   Sports organizations have an obligation to engender an atmosphere where all people can perform at their peak for the benefit of the individual and the team.  Allowing people to be true to themselves not only encourages empowerment, it fuels honesty and trust, the key elements needed in any healthy relationship, marriage, team or work environment.”

Pat Griffin, Director of It Takes A Team! says “Everyone should be able to enjoy the challenges and joys of sport participation.  Every athlete should be evaluated, not on her or his sexual orientation or gender identity, but on their accomplishments and character.  All athletes should have the right to play without fear of discrimination or harassment.”

LZ Granderson, senior writer, ESPN The Magazine and columnist ESPN.com, will moderate the discussion of five former professional “out” athletes and a current college athlete.

  • John Amaechi, former NBA player, Bronze medalist at the Commonwealth Games and author of the New York Times bestselling book “Man In The Middle”
  • Billy Bean, former Major League Baseball player and author of “Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball”
  • Joey Fisher, a University of Georgia Ice Dogs goalie, and student who came out to his team last year.
  • David Kopay, former NFL player and one of the first professional athletes to come out as gay and author of “The David Kopay Story”
  • Terri O’Connell (born James Terrell Hayes), a former World Class race car driver with more than 25 years experience and author of “Dangerous Curves.” 
  • Esera Tuaolo, a former NFL player and author of “Esera Tuaolo: Alone In The Trenches”

“This is an important discussion to be had in terms of both male and female athletes at all levels of sports.  Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues with other events around the country, several leading female athletes were not able to participate in our panel this weekend in Atlanta.  HRC and ITAT hope to host a similar panel discussion focusing on homophobia in women’s sports in the near future,” said Mark Shields from HRC’s Coming Out Project.

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