Richmond Athletics, UR Common Ground, Recreation and Wellness, the Office of the Chaplaincy and the Division of Student Development came together this past weekend to host Campus Pride and put on the first Campus Pride Sports Summit, a two-day event for University of Richmond students, administration and faculty, focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered student-athletes.
Campus Pride is a national nonprofit organization based in Charlotte, N.C., that focuses on creating safer campus environments for LGBT students.
The event included speeches from former George Washington University student-athlete Kye Allums, Pennsylvania State University professor Sue Rankin and former National Football League player Wade Davis. Attendees also listened to a panel discussion that included recent Richmond graduates Kevin Grayson, Alex Rooke and Allie Albright.
Rebby Kern, media and communications director of Campus Pride, said that with the Sochi Olympics in full swing, it is a good time for the organization to join the discussion about being LGBT in athletics. It was the first Campus Pride event focusing on college athletes.
“We came to UR because Ted Lewis had contacts within the community that showed a strong interest in hosting the summit and supporting the cause,” Kern said. “The support was here.”
Ted Lewis, Common Ground’s associate director of LGBT campus life, said the athletics department came to him with the idea for the summit. Their goal, he said, was “to address homophobia and transphobia within collegiate athletics and to engage in a conversation about how our LGBTQ student-athletes fit into the athletic community at UR.”
In his closing remarks Friday evening, director of athletics Keith Gill said: “We want to continue this dialogue because our role as educators is key to us. We are working with people who are trying to find their voice, and we understand our role in trying to help them find that voice.”
Many Richmond student-athletes attended the event Thursday to hear Allums, the first “out” transgender person to play NCAA Division I athletics, speak about his experience coming out on a team. Student-athletes from almost every Richmond team were present at the talk, Lewis said, and most coaches attended as well. Lewis estimated that about 200 athletes attended the event Thursday evening.
The event on Friday was geared more toward administrators and faculty members of the athletic departments of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of North Carolina-Charlotte and others as far as St. Louis. Attendees listened to two speakers, a lunchtime panel and participated in breakout groups about bullying, religion and team support.
The morning began with a talk by Rankin about what university athletic departments could do to further address the needs of LGBT student-athletes.
Over lunch, attendees listened to a panel of LGBTQ members of Richmond’s athletic community including 2013 graduate Allie Albright, 2012 graduate Alex Rooke, 2010 graduate Kevin Grayson, and current diving coach Sean Letsinger. Allums, who mediated the discussion, asked the panel to respond to questions about their experiences as LGBTQ members on Richmond teams.
The event ended with a speech by Wade Davis, a former NFL player who played for the Tennessee Titans, the Washington Redskins, and the Seattle Seahawks. Davis told his own story of coming out and challenged members of the audience to put themselves in the shoes of LGBTQ athletes to understand how to support them.
“You love your sport, you love your partner, you love your family. How do you choose? This is what your student-athletes are going through,” Davis said.
Campus Pride organizers said they were pleased with the turnout at the summit. “The administration and faculty [at UR] have been willing to learn, and that’s a beautiful thing to see,” Kern said.
Contact reporter Rhiannon Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org