Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita is among the National Football League players who have signed onto a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8, the California amendment that banned same-sex marriage. Arguments in the Supreme Court case begin Tuesday, and Fujita penned a powerful editorial in the New York Times this weekend outlining his support for marriage equality, making a perfect case for why sports can have such an impact on issues like this one:
Sometimes, people ask me what any of this has to do with football. Some think football players like me should just keep our mouths shut and focus on the game. But we’re people first, and football players a distant second. Football is a big part of what we do, but a very small part of who we are. And historically, sports figures like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King and Muhammad Ali have been powerful agents for social change. That’s why the messages athletes send — including the way they treat others and the words they use — can influence many people, especially children.
Believe it or not, conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day. In many respects, the football locker room is a microcosm of society. While there is certainly an element of bravado in our sport, football players are not the meatheads many think we are. For some of my friends who raise personal objections to marriage equality, they still recognize the importance of being accepting. And many of them also recognize that regardless of what they choose to believe or practice at home or at their church, that doesn’t give them the right to discriminate. I am encouraged by how I’ve seen such conversations evolve. [...]
I support marriage equality for so many reasons: my father’s experience in an internment camp and the racial intolerance his family experienced during and after the war, the gay friends I have who are really not all that different from me, and also because of a story I read a few years back about a woman who was denied the right to visit her partner of 15 years when she was stuck in a hospital bed.
Athletes, as Fujita notes, have experiences that shape their lives and views, just like the rest of us. What they also have is a platform that allows them to play a major role in positive social change. Sports matter in these fights. Fujita, like Brendan Ayabadejo and Chris Kluwe, is yet another example of that.