For those who are justifiably pissed at Focus on the Family — better termed “Focus on the Patriarchy, Ignore Women’s Needs,” which I suppose is not very catchy –running an anti-choice Super Bowl ad starring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, may I direct you to something more positive? A lovely reader pointed me, in another forum, to a New York Times article about NFL linebacker Scott Fujita.
Fujita plays for the New Orleans Saints, who will be facing off against the Indianapolis Colts in the big game on Sunday, and he is the only male athlete I can think of who is a vocal supporter of both a woman’s right to choose and LGBTQ rights. He’s spoken out about those issues, in part because of the flap over Tebow’s ad and a rejected ad for a gay dating service. (So, to recap: CBS approved an ad by an organization that wants to rescind an extant law that gives a woman control over her body, but rejected an ad so that bigots don’t have to think about the fact that two men are — again, legally — allowed to hook up. But bring on the ads of skimpily clad women!) Fujita is not content to just let this go without comment and justifiable criticism.
Regarding the Focus on the Family ad:
“It’s just me standing up for equal rights,” Fujita said. “It’s not that courageous to have an opinion if you think it’s the right thing and you believe it wholeheartedly.”
The Tebow ad suggests that Tebow’s mother was advised about having an abortion when she was pregnant with him, but chose instead to give birth.
“The idea of focusing on the family — who wouldn’t agree with that? But the means of doing so, he and I might not see eye to eye all the way.”
The issue is clearly one Fujita cares about a great deal. Given up for adoption by a teenaged mother, he reasons that “I’m just so thankful she had the courage and the support system to be able to carry out the pregnancy . . . I wouldn’t expect that of everybody.” His common sense reasoning is heartening, although it is simultaneously discouraging that this kind of talk is so rarely heard in the (dudely) athletic world.
As for the same-sex dating service commercial — produced by a company called ManCrunch — Fujita is similarly outspoken:
“The idea of doing it at the Super Bowl is going to raise some eyebrows,” Fujita said. “Do they have the right? Absolutely. Is it going to offend some people? Absolutely.”
Last fall, in an interview on the Sirius XM Satellite Radio show “Edge of Sports,” Fujita bluntly supported a march for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
“Just because I’m in favor of gay rights doesn’t mean I’m gay,” Fujita told the host, Dave Zirin. “I know who I am. My wife knows who I am.”
The über-dudely world of pro sports, particularly football, is one with a don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude that rivals that of the military. There has never been an active, openly gay player in any of the four major team sports (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey), and when retired NBA player John Amaechi came out of the closet several years ago, there was the sadly predictable homophobic backlash. For a high-profile player like Fujita to come out, so to speak, as an advocate for LGBTQ rights is remarkable.
Fujita contends that while there does seem to be that don’t-ask-don’t-tell system in pro sports, “By and large, the players are more tolerant than they get credit for. It’s not a big issue. Some guys will think you are crazy for believing one way, but they’ll still accept you.” That may be, but there is still a prevalent, machismo-riddled mindset that prevents athletes from coming out in public. (I refuse to believe that out of the literally thousands of NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NCAA athletes there is not one who is gay or bisexual.) I hope that Fujita’s vocal support of LGBTQ Americans will move more athletes to profess their own support, and maybe show that players who want to come out of the closet would receive support.