Monday, February 1, 2010

LGBT Sports Advocacy Loses Another One

I got an email from Ted Rybka, last week letting me know that his position at GLAAD has been eliminated. Ted was in charge of the sports media desk for GLAAD. This position was established by Neil Giuliano, the former executive director of GLAAD. Ironically, Outsports posted an interview with Neil about GLAAD and sports media last week probably on the same day that Ted emailed to tell me he lost his job.

I had the pleasure of working with Ted on 2-3 projects. Most recently we were on a panel together at the NCAA convention. I don’t know whether it was economic contingencies or a shift of priorities within GLAAD’s new leadership that resulted in the elimination of Ted’s position, but either way, it is a loss for all of us who are committed to equality for LGBT people in all levels of sport.

I’m not worried about Ted. He is a great guy with lots of talent who will land on his feet and do good work wherever he is. I hope we will be able to work together again in the future. It does make me sad though to lose another organizational voice in the ongoing conversation committed to education the sports world about LGBT athletes and coaches.

The loss of the GLAAD sports desk comes at a time when we could use their voice in response to CBS’s decision to change their policy to accept “advocacy ads” for the Super Bowl. The picked a doosy for their first one in terms of controversy. University of Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow will appear in an ad next Sunday paid for by Focus on Family, the right-wing anti-gay fundamentalist Christian advocacy group. Tebow is quite public about his Christianity. He paints biblical verses in the black under his eyes on game days. Tim and his mother will be featured talking about her decision not to heed her doctor’s advice to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Tim. CBS’s change in policy is particularly hard to take since last year they turned down an ad paid for by the United Church of Christ advocating welcoming diverse worshippers that specifically included LGBT people. It remains to be seen whether CBS’s change in policy about advocacy ads will be slanted toward a right or left leaning political agenda or inclusive of all political perspectives.

Following the recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for corporate “free speech” in the political process though, it is clear we are all going to be subjected to a barrage of more media propaganda from corporate and political groups with an agenda and the money to inflict it on us wherever we are.

The loss of the sports desk at GLAAD couldn’t come at a worse time. We need someone watching the sports media and monitoring the corporations and political organizations that sponsor sports in the media. I hope GLAAD will to see the importance of vigilance in this arena despite the elimination of the sports desk.

Addendum - I just saw that GLAAD has indeed spoken out about the Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad. You can read what they say here.


E Leb said...

I'd like to add my appreciation for Ted Rybka's advocacy at GLAAD. Sad to hear we're losing both of your programs! Wishing you lots of luck and happiness in your next steps.

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Anonymous said...

The loss of Ted Rybka and the Sport's Director position was a mistake that hopefully GLAAD will resend. Bring Ted back, we miss him!