I think it’s fair to say that Sean Avery has a had a pretty checkered career in the NHL, mostly for his shenanigans ( some of which have to do with hockey, and some of which are the result of  Gary Bettman needing to pacify advertisters). All that aside, I was so encouraged by his  recent endorsement of a group seeking to make gay marriage legal in the state of New York, and his continued advocacy of the rights of gay people to stand up and be noticed as athletes.

It seems sometimes that the “final frontier” in gay advocacy is the world of sports. It’s okay to be gay everywhere else (or at the least, begrudgingly accepted), but in professional sports, we have yet to have an athlete come out as openly gay in any of the major sports during his playing career, even though statistically, there are probably many. 

Tim Hardaway hates gay people Tony Dungy says he would preach to them. An actual NHL player agent thinks it’s  “misguided”.

Athletes are terrified to say anything that may be perceived as controversial, and really, in a  post-Mendenhall and  post-Peterson world can you blame them? Why take the risk of saying anything beyond  “both teams played hard” if some knucklehead sportswriter is going to use it to spin a story espousing “outrage” (I call it the  “shut up and sing” syndrome) at your political beliefs?

This is why Avery’s endorsement is so admirable. He’s taken stand in his field that so many others have been too afraid to take, and he’s using his influence as a prominent athlete  not to profit, but to help others in their quest for equality. How many of us in a similar position would do the same?

My mother-in-law is gay. She and her wife have been together over 20 years and have dealt with things I can’t even imagine. Just to get married, they had to go all the way to Massachusetts, because it’s not legal for them to marry each other in their own home state. They’ve dealt with stares and snickers, and people grabbing their kids and turning them the other way so they don’t have to deal with the horror of explaining to them about how people in love that are different than they are act. As a child, my wife had to experience other kids telling her that her mom was going to burn in hell, and that’s something no child should ever have to experience. They are some of the most courageous and strong people I have ever had the privilege to know.

It’s so easy to say that things shouldn’t be this way. Sean Avery was brave enough to stand up for decency and respect of all human beings, no matter who they love. I hope many others will be just as brave and stand with him.