Hey, we noticed you're in Canada but are currently viewing our US site. Would you like us to take you to the Canadian site, or do you want to stay on the US site?
Picking up what we're putting down? We thought you might be. Sign up for our free 3x-weekly newsletter to get "the gist" of what's going on in the sports world in less than 5 minutes.
Skip to Content

General

🏆Full of Pride

June 06, 2021
SOURCE: ALI KRIEGER/INSTAGRAM
SOURCE: ALI KRIEGER/INSTAGRAM

I didn’t see people of my community, and it made me feel like I had to hide, and it made me feel that I couldn’t live my truth. I think, for us, that is something that Ali and I strive to do just to create the visibility aspect in our sport and in our life and show that we get happy endings, too.

— Orlando Pride and USWNT star Ashlyn Harris, touching on the importance of representation in sports. Harris and her wife (and teammate) Ali Krieger welcomed their daughter Sloane into their lives in February. Family goals.

🌈 Why we celebrate

SOURCE: SKY SPORTS

Pride Month is celebrated in June because of the June 1969 “Stonewall Uprising,” a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement, when a police raid occurred at the Stonewall Inn — a gay club in New York City — sparking a wave of riots.

  • Since then, many discriminatory (though not all) laws against LGBTQ2S+ individuals and same-sex couples have been struck down, while gay representation throughout the media and society has grown.

Unfortunately, the sports world doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to standing with the LGBTQ2S+ community. Homophobia was and is rampant in locker roomsand online sports communities, and athletes who discuss their sexuality have been subjected to discrimination and even physical harm for decades.

  • So, when athletes do come out publicly and use their platforms to advocate for LGBTQ2S+ rights, it’s a brave feat — one that should be recognized and celebrated for longer than a single month.

⛹️‍♀️ Barrier-breakers in women’s sports

SOURCE: TENNISNET.COM

You know we stan Billie Jean King (BJK). Sadly, the tennis icon wasn’t able to come out on her own terms after being publicly outed in a 1981 lawsuit from a former partner. When the news spread, King lost all her professional endorsements at that time.

The WNBA leads the way in advocating for LGBTQ2S+ athletes today, but was slow on the uptake. In 2002, New York Liberty’s Sue Wicks became the first WNBA player to publicly come out as gay, but the league still distanced itself from the gay community for another decade. Ugh.

  • Finally in 2014, the W became the first pro sport league to create and promote a Pride campaign, a year after 2013’s No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner publicly came out.
  • Today, there are a handful of out players in the WNBA alongside Griner, including some of the league’s biggest names like Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne, Sue Bird and trans and non-binary athlete Layshia Clarendon.

⛹️‍♂️ Barrier-breakers in men’s sports

SOURCE: AP

On the men’s side, there’s still work to do in creating safe spaces for athletes. There are currently no openly gay athletes in any major league in North America. Looking back, one of the first openly gay athletes in a major pro sport was the MLB’s Glenn Burke, who came out publicly in 1982 after retiring from the league.

  • That said, prior to 1982, Burke was already out to his teammates, coaches and staff on the LA Dodgers and Oakland Athletics.
  • Burke — credited with inventing the high five — was said to be incredibly comfortable with who he was and didn’t keep his sexuality a secret. It was actually society and the mediawho weren’t ready for such news in the late ’70s. No surprise there.

Before passing in 1995 due to AIDS-related complications, Burke set an example of courage for gay baseball players to come, like Billy Bean (not to be confused with Moneyball’s Billy Beane), who came out publicly in 1999.

  • Since then, Bean has made equality in pro baseball his life’s work and in 2014, was named the MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion.

Representation came much later in the other major pro leagues. In 2013, Robbie Rogers publicly came out while playing with the MLS’ LA Galaxy, making him the first openly gay athlete to play in any major men’s league.

  • Months later, the NBA’s Jason Collins came out before joining the Brooklyn Nets in 2014, making Collins only the second publicly gay athlete to play in a men’s major pro sports league.
  • Collins wore No. 98 in honor of the late Matthew Shepard, a gay student who was brutally murdered in 1998, and proceeds from his jersey sales benefited the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

Also in 2014, defensive end Michael Sam publicly announced he was gay ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft and became the first publicly gay player to be drafted into the league, when he was picked in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams.

📢 Coaches and management

SOURCE: GARY LANDERS/AP

On the sidelines, a few coaches and managers have discussed their sexuality publicly, creating visibility and representation in decision-making roles within the sports world.

  • In 2019, San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers became the first openly gay person (and woman) to coach in the Super Bowl. Sowers is headed to the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2021 season. HYFR!

At the college level, then-Bryant University assistant basketball coach Chris Burns became the first Division I men’s coach to come out publicly in 2015. Burns even received praise(as he should!) after coming out from soon-to-be retired Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski.

🏅 On the world stage

SOURCE: ROBERT DEUTSCH/USA TODAY SPORTS

Publicly coming out on the world stage is no small task. There have been many LGBTQ2S+ athletes at the Olympic Games; however, not all felt comfortable being out when they competed.

  • In 1982, Olympian Tom Waddell created the “Gay Olympics” (now called the “Gay Games”) as an international event and safe space to bring together LGBTQ2S+ athletes, artists and advocates from all walks of life and encourage social change through sport.

Fast forward to 2018, and figure skater Adam Rippon and skier Gus Kenworthy became the first openly gay men to compete for the U.S. in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

  • And the two continue to use their platforms, namely on social media, to advocate for the LGBTQ2S+ community. In 2019, Kenworthy biked 545 miles (!!!) in the AIDS/LifeCycleto raise money and awareness for HIV and AIDS.

⚧️ Continued fight for trans rights

SOURCE: JENNA GALLIGAN/IOWA

Trans athletes have historically been left out of the conversation, but stars like the aforementioned Layshia Clarendon are creating visibility for trans and non-binary athletes at the top level. 

But the progress for trans athletes continues to be challenged. On Tuesday (and the first day of Pride Month, no less), Florida joined a growing list of states that have signed bills to ban transgender female athletes from competing in girl’s and women’s sports at public schools. 

  • Lawmakers claim that the bills will remove an “unfair advantage,” but their argument lacks any evidence. Advocacy groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, announced they will file lawsuits in order to challenge these bills. 
  • The NCAA released a statement in April expressing support for transgender student-athletes, but we’re holping the association turns their words into actions soon to help protect trans youth when they need it most.

🤝 How to show support

SOURCE: OUTSPORTS.COM

Sports play an important role in society and in order to get to a place where everyone feels safe and welcome, we have to work together. Apart from participating in local Pride parades and social media campaigns this month, there are more ways to show support.

  • Outlets like Out Sports and Athlete Ally are doing great work in shining a spotlight on and advocating for LGBTQ2S+ athletes year-round. Find a full list of outlets and advocacy groups here.
🎾🏆

Quick Hits

May 13, 2021
Source: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
Source: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

🎾Tennis: Serena Williams has hit a new high. Yesterday’s second round Italian Open appearance marked her 1,000th tour-level match, though the milestone didn’t come with a win as she unfortunately lost to Nadia Podoroska.

  • Naomi Osaka also lost her second-round match, and defending champ Simona Halep retired in the second set of hers with an injury. Time for some gelato.

🏇Horse racing: Medina Spirit will run once more. The Kentucky Derby-winning, drug test-failing horse was given the all-clear to race in this Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second race of the Triple Crown, but will undergo additional testing and monitoring throughout the weekend.

  • Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert has claimed that Medina Spirit’s failed test was due to a steroid found in an antifungal cream used to treat the horse’s dermatitis. We sincerely hope we never have to write that combination of words ever again.

💸Money: Forbes released their annual top 10 highest-paid athletes list, and unsurprisingly but still immensely frustratingly, there were no women included. At a heartstopping $180 million, MMA fighter Conor McGregor topped the list, which also included NBA star LeBron James, NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Dak Prescott and F1 driver Sir Lewis Hamilton.

  • The most interesting inclusion on the list is tennis star Roger Federer, who made less than $30,000 from playing tennis last year (he’s been injured since early 2020), but around $90 million in endorsements. Money pwease.
🏎🏆

Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test

May 10, 2021
Source: Jeff Roberson/AP Photos
Source: Jeff Roberson/AP Photos

 🏇Horse racing: Recent Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed his drug test. Yes, the horse. The American thoroughbred owned by Bob Baffert is at risk of having his title revoked, in what was Baffert’s record seventh win. Baffert has been banned from Churchill Downs (the Derby’s venue) while investigations continue.

🏎 Formula One: To absolutely no one’s surprise, Sir Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix yesterday, thanks to some sneaky strategy from his Mercedes team. F1 is on hiatus until the May 23rd Monaco Grand Prix, so while you wait, check out the latest Beyond The Grid podcast episode featuring the first-ever female F1 team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn.

🥌 Curling: Switzerland won the World Women’s Curling Championship yesterday, earning a spot in next year’s Olympics. Meanwhile, Team USA won the bronze and Team Canada earned an Olympic berth.

⛳️ Golf: A couple of longtime droughts ended in the golf world this weekend. Former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy won the Wells Fargo Championship yesterday, his first win since November 2019, while Ariya Jutanugarn won the Honda LPGA Thailand in her home country. It marked her 11th career victory, but the first in 1,015 days (almost four years!).  

🏆Motherhood and maternity leave in sports

May 09, 2021
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy

QUOTE OF THE DAY

You can be great at all these things. You can be someone representing, and doing it with class, and professionalism, and doing well at your job. You can be a mom; you don’t have to stop coaching.

— Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes, who led her Wildcats to the NCAA title game six months after giving birth to her daughter Capri...and graciously handled (literal) sh!t along the way. Can you say super mom?

🎾 Queen of the court

SOURCE: SKY SPORTS TENNIS/TWITTER

When it comes to moms changing the game, we have to start with tennis legend Serena Williams. After winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant (imagine?), Serena faced life-threatening health complications soon after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September 2017.

Williams also led the way on the court. Prior to taking mat leave in April 2017, she was ranked No. 1 in the world. But upon returning to competition in February 2018, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranked Williams No. 453. Sorry, WTF?

  • Luckily, Serena speaking out about her situation prompted change. Now, if a player takes a leave of absence due to pregnancy, injury or illness, their ranking freezes and that “special ranking” can be used to gain entry into tournaments upon return.

Along with the rankings rule change, the WTA also made dress code-related policy changes in 2019. After Williams received backlash for wearing her iconic catsuit (to help with her blood clots) during the 2018 French Open, the WTA updated their policy, lifting their backwards restrictions on what players wear. Her impact.

🏃‍♀️ Racing toward change

SOURCE: TODAY

Back in 2018, six-time Olympic track & field gold medalist Allyson Felix was negotiating a new contract with Nike when she announced her pregnancy. And when Felix asked for pay protection surrounding maternity leave, Nike declined, instead planning to reduce her salary by 70%. Once again, WTF?

And once Felix was done with Nike, she testified before U.S. Congress in May 2019 on the maternal mortality crisis. Felix also discussed her own pregnancy health struggles with her daughter Camryn via emergency C-section.

👏 Progress to praise

SOURCE: ELLE

Even with Williams and Felix leading the way, the fight for sufficient maternity leave policies in sports is ongoing. We’ve already covered the WTA’s progress, so now it’s time to talk about how mat leave policies have changed (or haven’t...) across the other major women’s organizations. First, the good:

🏀WNBA: The W leads the way (of course) when it comes to maternity leave, but even their progress is only recent. Storytime: In 2018, WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith played while pregnant and “didn’t tell a soul.” And Diggins-Smith didn’t just play, she averaged 17.9 points per game for the Dallas Wings and was named an All-Star. What can’t moms do?

  • Part of the reason Diggins-Smith kept her pregnancy a secret is that under the WNBA’s old collective bargaining agreement (CBA), players were only guaranteed half of their (already small) salary if they took mat leave.
  • Luckily, the league made herstory with their new CBA in 2020, which includes fully paid maternity leave, guaranteed two-bedroom apartments while on the road for players with a child under 13 and a $5,000 annual child care stipend.

⛳LPGA: Prior to 2019, any player who left the tour for maternity leave was restricted to play only 10 events during their leave year. But, because women can make their own decisions (what a concept!), players are now allowed to compete in an unlimited number of tourneys.

  • We also have to shoutout Stacy Lewis and her sponsor KPMG. When Lewis announced her pregnancy in 2018, KPMG stepped up to pay the full value of her contract, regardless of the number of events she competed in. More of this, please.

🎓NCAA: In 2001, former Sacred Heart basketball player Tara Brady had her scholarship revoked after informing the school of her pregnancy. The heck? Brady’s case went to the U.S. federal court, where lawyers argued that her pregnancy should have been protected under Title IX.

  • Brady and Sacred Heart ultimately settled out of court in 2003, but the case shed light on the NCAA’s lack of adequate protections. In 2019, the NCAA produced a toolkit for pregnant and parenting student athletes. About time.

🚨 Looking for change

SOURCE: ARIN WRIGHT/INSTAGRAM

We know progress can take time, but what better time than the present? Here are the organizations that still have some work to do when it comes to mat leave policies and supporting moms. Change would be the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

🎓NCAA: Player progress aside, the NCAA has to do better at supporting coaches who are parents. We already know the NCAA failed at March Madness, but this goes beyond weights. Under the tournament’s COVID-19 guidelines, teams were only granted a 34-person travel party and despite young kids not needing a plane ticket to travel, they did count against group.

  • That means coaches were forced to choosebetween bringing their kids into the bubble or bringing along a trainer or coach who had been with the team all season. Ugh.
  • And if a coach did decide to bring their child into the bubble, resources were scarce. There was no space for kids to play, no guaranteed suites for families and no child-care stipend offered. Clearly, there’s still a long way to go.

⚽NWSL: The NWSL doesn’t have a CBA, so maternity leave is handled on a case-by-case basis. Chicago Red Stars defender Arin Wright recently returned to the league after giving birth to her son in April 2020, and is shining a spotlighton the NWSL’s lack of support. And thankfully, negotiations for the league’s first-ever CBA are underway.

🏒NWHL: When the U.S. women’s hockey team boycotted the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championships in 2017 to protest unequal pay and treatment, maternity leave and child care were on their list of demands. And while a deal was reached in that situation, it’s not clear their fight impacted how things operate over in the NWHL.

  • Similar to the NWSL, players in the NWHL do not have a CBA. Hopefully the recent increase in the salary cap is a sign of even more progress to come.

🤝 The future

SOURCE: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK

As we know, there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equity in sports, and motherhood and maternity leave must be considered in this fight. Athletes should not feel like they need to put their career “on hold” to become a mother, nor be punished for choosing to become a parent.

  • In the words of sports journalist Holly Rowe, “let’s normalize working mothersincluding athlete mothers. And let’s make sure their leagues, sponsors and fans support them along the way.

🏆Motherhood and maternity leave in sports

May 09, 2021
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy
Source: NCAA Sports/Giphy

QUOTE OF THE DAY

You can be great at all these things. You can be someone representing, and doing it with class, and professionalism, and doing well at your job. You can be a mom; you don’t have to stop coaching.

— Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes, who led her Wildcats to the NCAA title game six months after giving birth to her daughter Capri...and graciously handled (literal) sh!t along the way. Can you say super mom?

🎾 Queen of the court

SOURCE: SKY SPORTS TENNIS/TWITTER

When it comes to moms changing the game, we have to start with tennis legend Serena Williams. After winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant (imagine?), Serena faced life-threatening health complications soon after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September 2017.

Williams also led the way on the court. Prior to taking mat leave in April 2017, she was ranked No. 1 in the world. But upon returning to competition in February 2018, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranked Williams No. 453. Sorry, WTF?

  • Luckily, Serena speaking out about her situation prompted change. Now, if a player takes a leave of absence due to pregnancy, injury or illness, their ranking freezes and that “special ranking” can be used to gain entry into tournaments upon return.

Along with the rankings rule change, the WTA also made dress code-related policy changes in 2019. After Williams received backlash for wearing her iconic catsuit (to help with her blood clots) during the 2018 French Open, the WTA updated their policy, lifting their backwards restrictions on what players wear. Her impact.

🏃‍♀️ Racing toward change

SOURCE: TODAY

Back in 2018, six-time Olympic track & field gold medalist Allyson Felix was negotiating a new contract with Nike when she announced her pregnancy. And when Felix asked for pay protection surrounding maternity leave, Nike declined, instead planning to reduce her salary by 70%. Once again, WTF?

And once Felix was done with Nike, she testified before U.S. Congress in May 2019 on the maternal mortality crisis. Felix also discussed her own pregnancy health struggles with her daughter Camryn via emergency C-section.

👏 Progress to praise

SOURCE: ELLE

Even with Williams and Felix leading the way, the fight for sufficient maternity leave policies in sports is ongoing. We’ve already covered the WTA’s progress, so now it’s time to talk about how mat leave policies have changed (or haven’t...) across the other major women’s organizations. First, the good:

🏀WNBA: The W leads the way (of course) when it comes to maternity leave, but even their progress is only recent. Storytime: In 2018, WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith played while pregnant and “didn’t tell a soul.” And Diggins-Smith didn’t just play, she averaged 17.9 points per game for the Dallas Wings and was named an All-Star. What can’t moms do?

  • Part of the reason Diggins-Smith kept her pregnancy a secret is that under the WNBA’s old collective bargaining agreement (CBA), players were only guaranteed half of their (already small) salary if they took mat leave.
  • Luckily, the league made herstory with their new CBA in 2020, which includes fully paid maternity leave, guaranteed two-bedroom apartments while on the road for players with a child under 13 and a $5,000 annual child care stipend.

⛳LPGA: Prior to 2019, any player who left the tour for maternity leave was restricted to play only 10 events during their leave year. But, because women can make their own decisions (what a concept!), players are now allowed to compete in an unlimited number of tourneys.

  • We also have to shoutout Stacy Lewis and her sponsor KPMG. When Lewis announced her pregnancy in 2018, KPMG stepped up to pay the full value of her contract, regardless of the number of events she competed in. More of this, please.

🎓NCAA: In 2001, former Sacred Heart basketball player Tara Brady had her scholarship revoked after informing the school of her pregnancy. The heck? Brady’s case went to the U.S. federal court, where lawyers argued that her pregnancy should have been protected under Title IX.

  • Brady and Sacred Heart ultimately settled out of court in 2003, but the case shed light on the NCAA’s lack of adequate protections. In 2019, the NCAA produced a toolkit for pregnant and parenting student athletes. About time.

🚨 Looking for change

SOURCE: ARIN WRIGHT/INSTAGRAM

We know progress can take time, but what better time than the present? Here are the organizations that still have some work to do when it comes to mat leave policies and supporting moms. Change would be the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

🎓NCAA: Player progress aside, the NCAA has to do better at supporting coaches who are parents. We already know the NCAA failed at March Madness, but this goes beyond weights. Under the tournament’s COVID-19 guidelines, teams were only granted a 34-person travel party and despite young kids not needing a plane ticket to travel, they did count against group.

  • That means coaches were forced to choosebetween bringing their kids into the bubble or bringing along a trainer or coach who had been with the team all season. Ugh.
  • And if a coach did decide to bring their child into the bubble, resources were scarce. There was no space for kids to play, no guaranteed suites for families and no child-care stipend offered. Clearly, there’s still a long way to go.

⚽NWSL: The NWSL doesn’t have a CBA, so maternity leave is handled on a case-by-case basis. Chicago Red Stars defender Arin Wright recently returned to the league after giving birth to her son in April 2020, and is shining a spotlighton the NWSL’s lack of support. And thankfully, negotiations for the league’s first-ever CBA are underway.

🏒NWHL: When the U.S. women’s hockey team boycotted the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) world championships in 2017 to protest unequal pay and treatment, maternity leave and child care were on their list of demands. And while a deal was reached in that situation, it’s not clear their fight impacted how things operate over in the NWHL.

  • Similar to the NWSL, players in the NWHL do not have a CBA. Hopefully the recent increase in the salary cap is a sign of even more progress to come.

🤝 The future

SOURCE: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK

As we know, there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equity in sports, and motherhood and maternity leave must be considered in this fight. Athletes should not feel like they need to put their career “on hold” to become a mother, nor be punished for choosing to become a parent.

  • In the words of sports journalist Holly Rowe, “let’s normalize working mothersincluding athlete mothers. And let’s make sure their leagues, sponsors and fans support them along the way.