Homophobia among sportsmen is becoming decidedly unfashionable, as pro ball censures and fines f-word blasts from its top stars and a dreamy international rugby star launches his Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation to battle bullying on all fields, courts, and pitches. Pro baseball teams are getting in the act, too: the San Francisco Giants produced an “It Gets Better” video, and the Chicago Cubs are on board too.
New Hampshire seventh grader Sam Maden, an avid Boston Red Sox fan, wanted his favorite team to make a video for the project as well. He launched a petition on Change.org. The result? Almost 10,000 signatures in only a few days:
Every day, gay and lesbian teens in Middle School and High School are made fun of and bullied. It’s sad that some of them are bullied so badly, they decide to commit suicide. Recently, a petition much like this one was created to ask the San Francisco Giants to make an “It Gets Better” video. The Giants announced that they will make a video against bullying. We can do the same.
My name is Sam, I am 12 years old and my two friends and I really like the Boston Red Sox. If we can get a lot of signatures from our peers and teachers, we can possibly have the Red Sox make a video too!
And the Red Sox were happy to jump on it:
The announcement that the team would be the third major league baseball team to participate in the campaign came yesterday in response to a petition started by a 12-year-old New Hampshire boy who garnered nearly 10,000 signatures in a matter of days.
“The Red Sox organization takes the issue of bullying seriously,’’ the team said in a statement released by spokeswoman Leah Tobin. “It is something that has touched many of us and those we love, and it is a growing problem in our community. We are proud of dedicated Red Sox fans like 12-year-old Sam Maden who have taken the courageous step of publicly standing up against bullying of LGBT youth.’’
Sam’s petition honors his gay uncle, Chris Nutile, who died unexpectedly while traveling abroad last year:
“My brother would visit and he would often educate my children about causes important to him, he was a huge humanitarian,’’ said Tara Maden, Sam’s mother.
“When I found out about my uncle’s passing, I didn’t know what to do,’’ Sam Maden said. “This is something I can do to honor him. Uncle Chris knew how much I love the Red Sox and I think he would have been thrilled with the team making an ‘It Gets Better’ video.’’
My question is an echo of John Kerry’s many years ago about another serious topic, death in pointless war. Who wants to be the very last team to make an “It Gets Better” video?
Front offices across the country better get busy.
Don’t wait for Ben Cohen to come to your town to talk to your student fans about bullying and homophobia in sports. He’s likely to ask the kids why their home team hasn’t signed on; his Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation benefits The Trevor Project, among other non-profits.
In coming weeks, America should expect a cascade of pro ball teams launching videos. Will every one of them require a young person acting as Sam Maden did? Or can they decide that his petition to the Boston Red Sox stands as a proxy to them all?
Must other seventh grade fans lead each and every ball club to this positive outcome?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.