CITY HALL — Aldermen are taking the field in the growing clamor over gay athletes.
The Chicago City Council passed a resolution calling for the commissioners of all the major sports leagues to publicly support homosexual and transgender athletes and punish those who indulge in slurs and intolerance against them.
"We've come such a long way," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th), adding it was all but unthinkable a decade ago that an openly gay person could be elected alderman, as he has. "There's still so much more to do."
Lead sponsor Ald. Joe Moore (49th), along with Cappleman and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), pointed out that Chicago joins San Francisco in being the only cities to issue such a proclamation. He said it calls for sports commissioners to "publicly and emphatically" support LGBT athletes.
It became a hot-button issue after free-agent National Basketball Association center Jason Collins recently came out as the first active openly gay player in a major team sport.
Fawn Yacker, project director of the LGBT group the Last Closet, said the measure was critical to support not just gay athletes, but also gay youths, who suffer a higher suicide rate.
"Strong LGBT roles models supply these youth with the confidence to know that who they are in the world is just as valuable as their straight peers and that there are those of us who will stand by them, protect them and help them to grow to their fullest potential," she said.
"The importance of this measure cannot be understated," said ESPN sportswriter Christina Kahrl. "I feel considerable support in baseball," she said, and feels comfortable and welcome in her workplace, adding that LGBT athletes deserve the same.
The resolution will be sent to the commissioners of major league sports in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer. Yacker said National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman has already come forward expressing acceptance and support for gay athletes.