American Abby Wambach celebrates after winning the women’s soccer gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Source: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis
Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)–December 21, 2015. Support for LGBT players and rights by professional sports franchises leads to more favorable feelings toward teams, according to a new study released by the Center for American Progress. As the subject of LGBT athletes gains awareness, 56 percent of respondents in the study said they would have a significantly or somewhat more positive opinion of a professional sports team if it expressed support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, athletes and fans, with similar responses for teams supporting laws that protect LGBT people.
This study comes as the New York Giants become one of the first NFL teams to reach out to the LGBT community, including through the You Can Play Project and an event with LGBT youth at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, or HMI, last week [Video]. The Giants plan to have youth from HMI at Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, forming the gauntlet before the team takes the field.
“Sports should be an exciting, welcoming place, and this study shows that the public agrees,” said Dr. Laura Durso, Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “The strong support for teams embracing LGBT athletes, fans, and inclusive laws demonstrates the potential power of athletics to help build a more inclusive country. As more teams take a leadership role in supporting LGBT people and the laws that protect them, this study suggests they will have the opportunity for growth in their fan base.”
In addition to increased support overall, the study found little evidence that teams would lose support as a result of advocacy for LGBT people, with 36 percent of respondents stating that their opinion would not change at all should teams express support for LGBT fans and athletes and 35 percent stating the same about teams that express support for LGBT-inclusive laws. In both instances, less than 8 percent answered that it would have a negative impact. The study also shows that specifically mentioning LGBT people in diversity statements has no negative impact on the increased support for the team. In fact, when asked about increased support for their favorite team as a result its support for diversity in professional sports, including LGBT athletes, respondents’ support for that team jumped overall.
Support for LGBT athletes and fans has increasingly become part of the national conversation in recent years, from Michael Sam to Jason Collins and NBA referee Bill Kennedy. As this study shows, teams benefit from being supportive and active, as the Giants have been with their recent visit with youth from the HMI and their activities this weekend.