Allies and supporters of LGBT equality are growing by the day, and now, the sports community is following suit. During LGBT History Month, the Miami Heat is hosting a party to celebrate South Florida’s LGBTQ community, called Loud & Proud, this Saturday, Oct. 22.
The Miami Heat is planning a huge event, sending professional NBA coaches and players, and making it open and free to the public.
This is big news. The sports community has not historically been perceived as an ally to the LGBTQ movement. In fact, it’s been seen as extremely homophobic and transphobic on all levels. LGBTQ youth are often bullied out of sports at the K-12 level, and many LGBTQ athletes at the professional level are pressured to hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
However, we’ve recently seen a shift in how the sports community relates to LGBTQ rights both nationally and locally. Nationally, we’ve seen major professional leagues like the NBA take a pro-LGBT stance, culminating with the movement of their All-Star game from North Carolina due to their anti-LGBT law. The NCAA and ACC followed the NBA’s lead out of North Carolina, and the ACC even relocated one of its most prized championships-- the football championship-- to Orlando, a city with LGBTQ protections.
It is within this landscape of new support for LGBT equality that the Miami Heat event is even more groundbreaking. This is the first time an NBA team has officially hosted an LGBTQ-focused event - no NBA team has ever hosted an LGBTQ Pride night as many baseball and football teams have done. And, instead of a traditional “pride night” where the emphasis is on the team and the game, the Heat’s Loud and Proud will focus solely on Florida’s LGBTQ community.
They are using their resources to create a safe and inclusive space for the LGBTQ community and then coming into our space to celebrate us. This is allyship at its best, most effective, and most meaningful.
All of these efforts are game-changing, especially considering the impact and influence of sports on the Florida economy and culture. Now that sports leagues and teams are standing up for LGBT rights and prioritizing LGBT-inclusive places for lucrative sports events, Florida legislators have a renewed incentive to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act and ensure that all Floridians are safe and protected in the communities they call home.
As we prepare to promote and defend LGBTQ civil rights in the upcoming legislative session, words, support, or celebrations from these new, visible allies can help us move the ball forward on LGBT equality in Florida.
Hopefully more Florida teams will stand up to champion equality, loud and proud.
More information regarding HEAT Loud and Proud, as well as the RSVP link can be found at Heat.com/LoudandProud.
Locally, in Florida, the LGBT community has seen the sports community step up in a number of ways, from Pride nights to advocating for progressive LGBT protections under the law. The Miami Heat have long supported state-wide employment protections via the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, also backed by the Dolphins and Rays (did I miss any pro teams?). Additionally, other professional teams such as the Armada, Suns, and Sharks have signed on to local efforts to pass LGBT protections in Jacksonville.
After the tragedy at the Orlando Pulse nightclub, the outpour of support for the victims, families, and survivors from the local and national sports community was simply unprecedented. Athletics and its big names have come a long way in using their platforms to advocate for and reinforce LGBT equality and protection.
Our LGBTQ communities still lack statewide nondiscrimination protections. There is no state law to prevent the LGBTQ community from being discriminated against in areas like employment, housing, and public accommodations. In Jacksonville, one of our largest cities, equal rights advocates are still trying to pass a basic LGBT nondiscrimination law.