HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Kenneth Faried plays for the Denver Nuggets. He is now officially a trail blazer.
The second-year power forward nicknamed “The Manimal” for his ferocious style of play, has become the first NBA player to join Athlete Ally, an organization determined to end homophobia in sports. Faried has spent a lifetime immersed in the importance of raising awareness and fighting for equal rights in the gay and lesbian community.
The 23-year-old was raised in New Jersey by two lesbian mothers. Faried stood up in January to support marriage equality with a PSA geared toward legislation in Colorado. His moms married in 2007.
Stepping forward as the first NBA activist into an arena still mostly taboo in professional sports locker rooms is a bold move for a player who has made an immediate and significant impact on the court.
“Becoming an Athlete Ally gives me the opportunity to spread a message of inclusiveness throughout the NBA and our country,” Faried said in a statement. “I have two moms and I love them both very much. I respect, honor and support them in every way. The bond I have with them has made me realize that I want all members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community — whether they are parents, players, coaches or fans — to feel welcome in the NBA and in all of our communities.”
The dread-locked Faried will be highly visible during this weekend’s NBA All-Star extravaganza in Houston as a first-time participant in Saturday night’s Sprite Slam Dunk contest. He will also play in Friday’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.
As a member of Athlete Ally, Faried joins Super Bowl champion Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns, Connor Barwin of the Houston Texans, plus Australian rugby star David Pocock, Australian Rules Football player Brock McLean and scores of college athletes who have already signed on.
Faried will serve as a liaison between the organization and the NBA, help promote Athlete Ally’s mission to end homophobia in sports by speaking out to his team, league and fan base, and encouraging his colleagues to join in the effort. In August, Faried joined with the organization in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to deliver a pioneering awareness training to the 2012 NBA rookie class.
While there have been some women athletes to come out during their professional careers, no American male athlete has taken the leap and come out while playing a team sport. How professional athletes and organizations would handle such a scenario within the hallowed confines and forever hetero-dominated world of the male locker room has been hotly debated.
Some suggest today’s athletes still are not equipped to embrace a gay teammate, while others believe the time is finally here, that an openly gay player can coexist.
Recall it was just April 2011 when Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the league for using a gay slur during a game. Recently, Bryant reprimanded a fan on Twitter who tweeted, “You’re Gay” to another fan. The NBA has run a series of television ads about not using the word “gay” to put someone down.
Simply looking at the percentage of gay men in society suggests that the NBA and every other professional sports leagues have gay players within their ranks, and always have. Faried, the trail blazer, is working to ensure that soon those players will feel empowered to come out of the shadows without fear of repercussion.
“Kenneth’s advocacy for marriage equality was game-changing and his work to transform the culture of sports as an Athlete Ally will also make a huge difference,” said Brian Ellner, who led the Campaign for New York Marriage and who serves on the Athlete Ally Board of Directors. “Today, Kenneth sends a loud message to young people around the world that you can be who you are and compete at any level.”