Stanford and Cal: LGBT Rivalry Pride

Last week, we were invited to participate in a first-of-its-kind collaboration focused on making college athletics more inclusive and welcoming for LGBT athletes and coaches. What made this series of events, called “We A.R.E. (Athletes Reaching Equality) Pride” unique is that it was a joint effort between Stanford and Cal’s Athletic Departments.

Specifically, Mikayla Lyles, a senior on the Cal women’s basketball team, and Toni Kokenis, a senior on the Stanford women’s basketball team, came together to plan a series of events during Rivals Week when the two team play each other twice. Having these events occur during Rivals Week highlights the power of rivals joining forces to help educate players, coaches, administrators and fans about the importance of creating welcoming and inclusive environments in sports.

The program included our panel at both the Cal and Stanford campuses, where more than 100 audience members attended each panel. In addition to the panel, we debuted several video montages and films highlighting the importance of LGBT athletes being fully accepted and celebrated by their teams, coaches and schools, while expressing how equally important the deleterious impact of silence for such athletes can be.

One particularly moving element of the program was the photo exhibit, which displayed photos of Cal and Stanford athletes together that embodied the spirit of inclusion. Stanford also hosted a High School Inclusion workshop and a Youth Teamwork Clinic, recognizing the importance of getting tomorrow’s college athletes, coaches and fans involved in these efforts before they get to college.

Athletes and coaches often describe their teammates as a second family – one in which team members and coaches have each other’s backs on and off the court or playing field. In an impressive display of this value, the entire Cal women’s basketball team and coaching staff attended the panel at Cal to support their teammate Mikayla who, with Toni, spoke as part of panels on both campuses. In addition, Cal Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, attended the Cal panel. The presence of the entire Cal women’s team, coaching staff, athletic director and other athletic staff was a tangible expression of Cal Athletics’ commitment to inclusion, as well as an expression of personal support for Mikayla. It was teamwork at its best.

Thank you to Mikayla and Toni for inviting us to participate in this collaborative effort.  Each of us speaks at schools across the country on LGBT inclusion in athletics. This unique collaborative series of events and the support of the Cal athletic community, in particular, give us hope for the future and the ways that the current generation of student-athletes is changing sports to create more inclusive climates for athletes and coaches of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Nevin Caple, Founder & Executive Director, Br{ache the Silence Project

Helen Carroll, Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights Sports Project

Wade Davis, Executive Director, You Can Play Project

Pat Griffin, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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