The first major college football coach has come out to invite gay athletes to play for his team, in a video advocating against homophobia in sport.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Head Football Coach Jim Mora, has become the first major college football coach to speak out in favour of gay players in a video for the You Can Play campaign.
In the video, recorded by UCLA staff and students, Mora says: “At UCLA, we play with integrity and we honor diversity. We respect all athletes and coaches. If you can play, you can play. And if you can coach, you can coach.”
The video also features several other coaches, and starting quarterback Brett Hundley. Other universities have recorded videos for the campaign, but this is the first in which a head football coach is prominently featured.
On Monday, 100 coaches and 600 athletes attended a symposium around homophobia in sports, and Outsports.com reported that all varsity sports, including American football, were represented.
According to the report, UCLA currently had no out gay athletes, and the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the league for college football players, also currently has no out athletes.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Mora said. “I don’t judge people on their colour of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs. It doesn’t matter to me.
“I talk to these kids about everything,” Mora said. “There’s nothing that’s off-topic. But I haven’t seen the opportunity yet. Maybe I need to be more observant. Maybe there are things being said that I don’t hear. It’s not that I’m afraid to talk about it or don’t want to, it’s just I haven’t felt compelled to yet.
“In the locker room, in the meeting rooms, on the campus it’s going to be something that isn’t an issue,” Mora continued.
“UCLA is a very tolerant campus for all different beliefs. Most college campuses are like that. There are guys like Scott Fujita in every locker room. I can’t say there won’t be some tense moments, but these kids are very young and very tolerant. Sometimes they’re ignorant, and it just takes them growing up and learning a little.”
At the beginning of March, NFL player Scott Fujita spoke out about the issue of a lack of gay players in professional sport, and said that he thinks it would “not be an issue at all” to have a gay player in the locker room.
The issue of coming out is particularly topical in US professional sports, and in the US there is currently no openly gay player in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League.
You Can Play’s co-founder Patrick Burke, an anti-homophobia in sports campaign group, visited the camp of the baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and spoke about the damaging effect of homophobic slurs.