The Minnesota Vikings will become the first NFL team to host an inclusion summit for LGBTQ athletes.
The Vikings will invite LGBTQ athletes to their new practice facility on June 21st to participate in panels and meet with Twin Cities LGBTQ organizations.
Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren told USA Today that he thinks the football team hosting sends an important message about inclusivity in sports.
“My hope and desire is that this inspires individuals, this inspires businesses and corporate entities, and inspires sports teams, in all sports, to really sit back and say, this is a fact of life. This is reality,” he said. “We have individuals who may be in pain on our teams. They may not feel they have an opportunity to talk about these issues, and hopefully this is the spark to get some of these issues out on the table and allow people to become more comfortable in addressing these issues.”
Speakers will include Olympic diver Greg Louganis, former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo, and triathlete Chris Mosier. Also in attendance will be former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a longtime LGBTQ advocate.
Kluwe made news in 2014 for threatening to sue the Vikings after a coach made homophobic slurs in practice, and claimed that his speaking out led to him being dropped from the team. So vocal was Kluwe’s support, he was named Grand Marshal of the 2014 Capital Pride Parade.
“Hopefully the big take away is that having LGBTQ individuals in your locker room isn’t the end of the world, right,” Kluwe said. “This is something that lots of teams are dealing with, especially at the high school and college level, and it’s hopefully something we see teams starting to address more at the professional level.”
He added: “For me, that’s particularly the NFL, but the other major organizations as well, it’s that we want openly out gay players to be able to play. It shouldn’t be that you’re frightened to be who you are while you’re trying to pursue this immensely difficult athletic career.”
The NFL’s director of football development, Samantha Rapoport, said that the summit is the first of its kind for any team and is the latest step in trying to make the NFL more LGBTQ friendly.
“I think the unknown is what hinders progress in general as it pertains to including any minority group, so I think that what this event is going to do is it will normalize the discussion around LGBTQ inclusion,” Rapoport said. “I think the power that football has in this county to do that, the fact that the Minnesota Vikings are leading this, I think will hold a lot of weight and certainly advance that in people’s minds.”
So far, the only openly gay football player was former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014. He spent a brief time on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, but never played an actual game.
Former Washington Wizards player Jason Collins, who was the only active athlete to come out in any of the four main professional sports leagues, said during a panel in April that he believes the NBA is ready for another gay player to “step out and live their life.”