Monday, May 16, 2011
San Francisco -- The San Francisco Giants will become the first professional sports team to jump into the burgeoning anti-homophobia campaign with an upbeat "It Gets Better" video designed to bring a ray of hope to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people.
While celebrities, politicians, corporate leaders and everyday people have posted more than 10,000 "It Gets Better" videos to YouTube to build awareness to the continuing problem of gay suicide and anti-gay bullying, no teams in the pro sports world have stepped forward to produce a video.
Lifelong Giants fan Sean Chapin began an online petition drive on the website change.org to get the Giants on board, and convinced more than 6,000 people to sign on.
"The San Francisco Giants are in an extraordinary position to lead the rest of the professional sporting world and possibly make the most important 'It Gets Better' video yet - not just as the recent world champion of Major League Baseball, but also as ambassadors of an iconic city, revered for celebrating diversity and differences with open arms," Chapin said in his own online video pitch to the Giants.
In an interview today, Chapin, a 35-year-old accountant who lives in San Francisco and works in Oakland, described the team's decision as a "breaking bubble" that will have profound reverberations.
Giants' spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said today that the team already had been thinking of joining the campaign before Chapin started his petition drive, but his efforts speeded things up. She said the exact content of the video, and which if any players or members of the coaching staff will participate, has not been determined.
Originally, the plan was to produce the video for the Giants LGBT Night home game in August, Slaughter said, "but now we're trying to get it done sooner than later."
The Giants have a strong gay and lesbian fan base and as an organization has a history of promoting tolerance, she said. In 1994, the Giants became the first team in the majors to dedicate a game every year to AIDS awareness.
Chapin said he got the idea to lobby the Giants to make a video after Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, angered over a foul called against him, mouthed an anti-gay slur at a referee last month. The National Basketball Association fined him $100,000 for the offense.
That was followed by an April 23 incident in which Atlanta Braves' pitching coach Roger McDowell reportedly asked three men in the stands at a Giants game in San Francisco, "Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?" A witness said McDowell then made suggestive gestures with a bat. McDowell, who later apologized, was suspended by the league for two weeks.
Chapin, a native San Franciscan who came out as gay in high school, said he would like to see a day "when LGBT people can go to a pro sports game and be themselves, not feel like they have to hide who they are." He said he never really felt threatened himself, but noted that he wouldn't feel comfortable holding a boyfriend's hand or giving him a big smooch when the "kiss-cam" came around.
"Professional sports is one of the last havens for homophobia," said Susan Zieff, professor of kinesiology at San Francisco State University, who has focused on the socio-cultural study of physical activity.
She said the Giants planned video "could make a huge difference" in helping blunt acceptance of anti-gay rhetoric and behavior.
"A large number of fans are young people who look up to athletes as role models and there's a real potential to raise awareness about an issue that is bigger than sports."
Even if the Giants get some complaints from fans, Zieff said, "it's the right thing to do."