Why gay athletes may still not feel comfortable to come out in a progressive world - Matthew Pavlich
This article initially appeared on wwos.nine.com.au
Progression is all around us. New ideas and new technologies appear on a regular basis. It's a fast moving world and progress is the only way to keep up.
But how much progress are we making on the things that really matter? As much as things change, are the important things just staying the same?
Sharing a locker room with a bunch of young guys for 17 years is a sure way to get to know each other. The pre and post-training conversations were always a fluid mix of on-field tactics, off-field humour and everyday stories. In fact, considering I spent more time with my team mates than I did my family or friends, it's understandable that we got to know each other pretty well.
So last week when Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to announce he's gay, it got me thinking about my own experiences with diversity and inclusion within my team, club and sport in general.
Did I play with or against athletes that didn't feel comfortable to speak up?
I wonder now upon reflection, how well we actually knew one another. How comfortable did we make each other feel to be open with our views and true feelings? With our diverse traits; be they cultural, sexual or otherwise.
Being macho and gay aren't mutually exclusive. And perhaps the culture we had collectively built in the AFL community didn't encourage players to feel comfortable enough to speak up.
It's got me thinking about other feelings or thoughts that people have and don't feel "comfortable enough" to share. How much progress have we made within sport and as a society to ensure people feel comfortable despite our diversities? How more inclusive and diverse have we actually become? If you look around your own workplace, neighbourhood or sporting club what do you see and hear? Has there been change or does it actually still look like it did 30 years ago?
We know that diversity and inclusion drives innovation, creativity, meaningful connections and richer human experiences. So why is it (still!) often uncomfortable for people to talk openly about their true selves?
Nassib has been widely applauded for opening up and was greatly supported by teammates and the broader NFL community. Unfortunately though, as with any big announcement, there has been the usual diatribe and vitriol from some circles.
I assume that's why some don't feel ready to speak up. I don't blame them.
So what needs to change? Social media policies for one.
But it really does start with you.
For me, as I further ingrain myself into the business world and media, it is an unquestionable priority to educate myself. Being open and curious and interested in new perspectives is something I strive for. To learn and understand first and also ensure each of my employees and colleagues feels comfortable to be their true selves. In fact, I actively pursue and encourage diversity within the groups I work with.
As we come to the end of Pride Month for 2021, it is great to see that progress is being made. But as far as we've come, we still have a long way to go.