This month, the Arcus Foundation provided a $100,000 grant to the You Can Play Project to promote LGBT access to sports. This is the third year in a row the group has received funding.
Homosexual men and women have always played sports, although only recently have many become open about their orientations. This year was the first for an openly gay Division I college basketball player, Derrick Gordon of the University of Massachusetts. The lack of flack he got from fans and teammates could have led to complacency on the part of gay activists, until they heard from former New England Patriot running back Craig James, who for four years played at the other end of the state. In a broadcast interview this month with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, he blamed his former team’s support for gay marriage on the devil. “So, that’s Satan working on us is what that is.”
In contrast, the three-year-old You Can Play Project is committed to equal treatment and respect for all athletes regardless of whom they sleep with. “Locker rooms should be safe and sports venues should be free from homophobia. Athletes should be judged on talent, heart and work ethic, not sexual orientation.”
You Can Play is dedicated to giving athletes the opportunity to compete fairly, assessed only by what they can contribute to the sport or the success of their teams.
Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King played in the closet for years. Both came out in 1981, the first by the choice, the second at the hands of a former lover. Both lost commercial endorsements. Society has changed tremendously since then. Same-sex marriage is recognized by the federal government and is now legal in 36 of the United States. In 2014, King was one of two LGBT athletes invited by President Obama to represent the U.S. as part of the official delegation at the Sochi Russia Winter Olympics.
You Can Play has an innovative method to combat homophobia—encouraging professional, collegiate and high school athletes to post videos online to support inclusion. So far, dozens have been produced and featured on YouCanPlayProject.org.
The Arcus foundation has a dual track focus, protecting the world’s great apes, and backing social justice in LGBT issues. More than 400 Grantees work in 27 countries. According to the foundation’s most recent figures, 44 grants of more than $10 million went to protect our primate cousins while 168 grants of more than $17 million went to advance LGBT issues in 2013. “The ultimate goal of the Social Justice program is to ensure that individuals and families around the world of every sexual orientation and gender identity are able to live their lives with dignity and respect, and express their love and sense of self.”
The Arcus foundation has put out the welcome mat for potential grantees with inventive ideas to advance community engagement. It funds “general operating support, project support for specific programs, public policy and research, capital projects and capacity building.” But be aware that it has very specific funding requirements that grantees can find here.