Phillies Urged to Make "It Gets Better" Video
A Philadelphia Phillies fan continues to petition the team to create an "It Gets Better" video following Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s use of an anti-gay slur on a satellite radio show late last month.
Jackson referred to a caller as a "gay-ass faggot" during Sirius XM radio’s "All Out Show with Rude Jude and Lord Sear" on June 30. The online petition, which Jerome Hunt has spearheaded, has garnered more than 2,100 signatures since Change.org posted it on their website on the same day Jackson made his comments.
Hunt, a native Philadelphian who now lives in Washington, D.C., started the petition because he saw that the Phillies had not made a video.
"When I had started the petition, I think there was maybe over 100 signatures before Change.org contacted me and said they wanted to help me spread the word and get more people to sign, and hopefully get the organization to do the video," he told EDGE. " It’s been a tremendous response, and I didn’t expect that many people to sign so quickly, so I’m hoping the signatures will continue to come on in and that the [Phillies] will pick up on it, and decide if they want to do one too."
Hunt is unsure whether Jackson’s apology was sincere or not. "I don’t know if it was someone who was telling him, ’this is what you need to do,’ but I can say overall, in general for sports athletes, it seems okay for them to say these derogatory comments about the gay and lesbian community and transgendered community, and then come around in the next day or two and say they mean no disrespect to the community," he said. "And I don’t think that is necessarily true, because if there was no disrespect then they wouldn’t use the words in the first place."
Columnist Dan Savage launched the "It Gets Better" project last fall in response to a spate of LGBT teenager suicides that garnered national headlines. The San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox have made "It Gets Better" videos, while fans continue to petition the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees to follow suit.
Equality Pennsylvania also challenged the Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates to create "It Gets Better" videos in early June.
"I don’t know if it’s not a priority for [the Pirates], but the Phillies have been putting on one of the most successful ’gay days game’ in history, so I know that they sort of view their fans, even their LGBT fans as a priority," said Brian Sims, president of Equality Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors. Sims is also a board member of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s new Sports Project.
"We’re working through a process with them," added Sims. "We have gotten some calls from leadership at the Pirates, but I haven’t gotten an absolute yes or no from anyone."
Sims said he believes that teams will have a greater impact on LGBT issues when commissioners stand up against homophobic remarks.
"Once you start to hear from [Bud Selig] demanding that teams show respect for their LGBT fans and players, then we’ll start to [see change]," he said. "We haven’t seen any top-down leadership from any of the teams, or from any of the leagues."
Wayne Knaub, commissioner of the Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League, said coaches have a responsibility to respond to homophobia among their players while they are young.
"When you’re in high school and you throw out the word faggot or fag, if it is not corrected, at that point, it becomes a part of your vernacular," he said. "By the time you’re a pro, you’ve played four years of high school, four years of college, you’re now in the pro league - by that point it is so much ingrained into the way you react to a bad play or another player - and I think that’s where it really starts."
Knaub said while he appreciates the teams that have made "It Gets Better" videos, he is unsure whether they have an impact among the majority of sports fans. "There’s no way to tell how many people were truly impacted... you don’t truly know if you have saved someone," he stressed. "Are they ever going to post on your wall or post an appeal on YouTube saying ’You’ve saved my life?’ Probably not. By seeing several videos, by knowing it gets better, that’s the true power of what Dan Savage was trying to create."
After reading an article in which he was interviewed, Knaub noted Eagles spokesperson Derek Boyko’s comment that team brass was aware of the "It Gets Better" project. The team, however, has yet to approach him about making a video.
"I found his email address, I emailed him and I have not heard a response back yet but based on his comments that they are aware of it, but they have not been approached to do one, they have now been approached to do one." said Knaub. "It’s in their hands now to come out and do one, but they can no longer say they haven’t been approached to do one because they’re approached at this point."