The fight for equal rights often transcends race, gender and socio-economic boundaries. And while the world of professional sports isn't the first place you'd expect an open and frank discussion about sexuality, there have been current and former athletes who've supported a person's right to their sexual orientation.
Four years ago, former center John Amaechi became the first NBA player to come out publicly. In recent months, NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Donte Stallworth publicly supported gay marriage (as have former Giants player Michael Strahan and Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash).
We can now add former Cowboys wide receiver and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin's name to the list. Appearing in the new issue of Out, Irvin says that his decision to take a stand had to do with his relationship with his gay brother, Vaughn, who died of stomach cancer in 2006. According to the magazine, this is the first time Irvin has spoken publicly about his brother.
More details via WABC:
In the article, Irvin describes how his brother's sexual orientation contributed to his own issues. He says that he found out his brother was gay sometime in the 1970s when he found him wearing women's clothing. He was rattled by the experience and has since figured out that it contributed to his own womanizing behavior.Irvin credits his father with helping him accept his brother's lifestyle and now says the African-American community should support marriage equality.
"And through it all we realized maybe some of the issues I've had with so many women, just bringing women around so everybody can see, maybe that's the residual of the fear I had that if my brother is wearing ladies' clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic?" Irvin said to Out. "I'm certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why am I making these decisions, and that came up."
"I don't see how any African-American, with any inkling of history, can say that you don't have the right to live your life how you want to live your life," he said, according to the magazine. "No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality, and everybody being treated equally, I don't want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn't deserve equality."
There have been detractors, too. In June, former Super Bowl hero David Tyree said gay marriage "will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, it's a strong word, but anarchy."
But Irvin, who had his share of off-field trouble during his playing days, has no such hang-ups. "If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him. ... When a guy steps up and says, 'This is who I am,' I guarantee you I'll give him 100 percent support."
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