Monday, March 21, 2016

Seeking Common Ground: People of Faith and LGBT People in College Athletics

March 21, 2016

An Open Letter

From: The Common Ground Leadership Team

We are a committee comprised of sports educators including members of the LGBTQ community and faith community who work in college athletics. We come together to encourage respectful dialogue and to build relationships across our differences.  Our goal is to find common ground in policies and practices that enable all people in collegiate athletics, regardless of faith, sexual orientation or gender identity, to participate in a safe, civil and respectful environment. 
We believe that student-athletes of all faiths, sexual orientations and gender identities deserve a safe and respectful athletic experience in which they can reach their full potential.  Further, we believe that we have the best chance of creating safe and respectful athletic climates by working together to provide leadership and guidance to individual schools and national athletic organizations about how to achieve this challenging goal.  We believe in the power of engaging in difficult conversations together to find answers that benefit us all. 
Finally, we believe that divisive and polarized public debate pitting religious freedom against LGBTQ rights results in zero sum solutions characterized by fear and defensiveness that prevent us from recognizing our common values, commitments and humanity. We reject this conflict model as a way to create the kind of inclusive athletic climates we envision.
We came together in November, 2014 as part of an event hosted by the NCAA and planned by members of the LGBT Sports Foundation to engage people of faith and LGBTQ people in athletics in an initial conversation about “seeking common ground.” As a result of that positive and productive conversation, the Common Ground Leadership Team evolved.  We are currently engaged in planning a second Common Ground meeting in November, 2016 at NCAA headquarters to which we will invite representatives from faith-based schools, people of faith from secular schools and LGBTQ people to extend our conversations about finding workable inclusive practice and policy that honors our differences and creates the respect and safety essential for all student-athletes.  Our ultimate goals are to create and share a process for individual schools and athletic conferences to engage in their own common ground initiatives and to provide school athletic leaders with recommendations for more inclusive practice and policy.
Although we have significant differences in our perspectives on faith, sexual orientation and gender identity, we believe that we can work together to create more inclusive college athletic climates in which all participants can thrive while remaining true to our deeply held beliefs and identities. To that end, we are committed to a process that respects the core identities that our faith, our sexual orientation and our gender identity represent as we seek ways to bridge our differences. We invite all to join us in this challenging endeavor, always employing civility as we seek common ground.

The Common Ground Leadership Team:
Nevin Caple, Executive Director Br{ache the Silence
Helen Carroll, Sports Project Director National Center for Lesbian Rights
Pat Griffin, Professor Emerita University of Massachusetts Amherst
H. “Skip” Lord, Director of Athletics Houghton College
Karen Morrison, Chief Diversity Officer, University of Central Florida
Gary Pine, Director of Athletics Azusa Pacific University
Amy Wilson, Director NCAA Office of Inclusion