Grow The Game Lifestyle

Gay Athletes In Lacrosse – What’s The Problem Here?

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Editor’s Note:  Josh “Chewy” Acut has been contributing to LaxAllStars.com for a while now.  His constant message?  Grow The Game, and Grow Texas Lacrosse.  Josh has been instrumental in the lacrosse renaissance going down in South Texas RIGHT NOW, and in his newest post, he’s going GTG in a whole new way!

Lacrosse has grown a lot recently, but with all this GTG fever, are we forgetting to include some people?
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A Lack of Acceptance

Over the past two years I have had hundreds, if not thousands, of “Grow The Game” conversations with individuals who want to see our great sport thrive in their local communities. However, one recent conversation has literally made me question whether or not the “GTG” mindset is always really being communicated or if it’s just lip service used to cover up a person’s true ideals.

This week, I was talking at a school with an emerging group of interested lacrosse players, and I brought up the idea of recruiting openly gay/lesbian athletes from other sports, and from within the community, to help grow the game. To be honest, I really wasn’t thinking it would garner the response that it did.  The response to my suggestion went something like this:

“You’re kidding right!? LOL, I don’t think the guys would approve.”

That ONE comment literally made me question EVERYTHING.  Since when do “the guys” need to approve anyone’s effort to Grow The Game?  Since when are we excluding people because “the group” that already exists might not approve?  WHY would you want to Grow The Game AND keep people out of it?  The hypocrisy was staggering.

My response went something like this:

“I’m being totally serious. If the “guys” try to make it too exclusive, you won’t make it.  In order to succeed, you have to open the doors to everyone.”

Then I started thinking – YES, everyone is touting lacrosse as the fastest growing sport. YES, the marketing of the “bro” culture has helped retailers make money off “lax” apparel. But at the end of the day, all of these exclusionary practices are making me ask the question: are “lax bros” homophobic?

The Real Growth of the Game

There, I said it.  And sadly, I don’t think many others have.  Homosexuality is still not something that is talked about very openly in our society.  Not in the US, and definitely not in team sports. In a time of supposed “extreme” growth, has the game’s growth been hindered because of an underlying machismo “bro” attitude?

I have witnessed how one game has quickly grown both internationally and domestically.  Asia has become a lacrosse hot bed in only a few years.  Thailand, Japan, Singapore, China, and the Philippines are now emerging lacrosse markets that will be contenders sooner rather than later.

Urban lacrosse is a culture all of its own.  In modern times, Kyle Harrison, Chazz Woodson, and the Bratton Brothers have helped to break down the racial wall that has been in lacrosse for years – we would be naive to deny that that wall didn’t exist before. Even the most “bro” of bros, Con Bro Chill, has done his part to help grow urban lacrosse.

However, with all that said, and with all this growth, is the marketing of lacrosse broad enough to appeal to the Gay/Lesbian community?  Men’s and Women’s lacrosse is marketed two totally different ways, and I can not really speak about the women’s game until I do more research, but I can definitely tell you the “Lax Bro Culture” is all about the Bro, Being Bro, My Life is Bro, etc…

Grow Lax > Bro Lax

But don’t worry, I’m not gonna hate on Bros just to hate on Bros, I’m just gonna say one thing… Grow LAX > Bro LAX.

If someone said, “We should invite the black kids to come play lacrosse” and you said, “No, the bros might not approve” it would be a problem.  So why do people still think it’s okay to say the same thing about homosexuals?

Excluding people based on what they are is wrong, no matter what. So what exactly is holding us back from helping our fellow man in this situation?

At the end of the day, if I were truly trying to Grow the Game and field the best group possible, I would pick the BEST ATHLETE… Not the dude whose the most “bro”.

Now, I can also see a couple of people who know me personally saying, “Chewy isn’t gay… so why does he even care?!”

I care because at some point this conversation needs to happen, because RIGHT NOW there IS some high school kid out there who “can’t” play lacrosse because he will get messed with by the Lax Bros. And finally, I care because EVERYONE should feel welcome to participate and play the “Creator’s Game”.  No one should ever feel banned from playing a “rich, straight, white boy sport”.

This write up will, and should, get great responses, because everyone in the world wants to “Grow The Game”…  Right?Grow the game logo lacrosse

For more stories on gay lacrosse players, check out Outsports.com

Andrew Goldstein‘s (Dartmouth and MLL goalie) story.

Andrew McIntosh (Oneonta State) comes out to his team.

Out Bowdoin College coach, and athlete, build a legacy.

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22 Comments

  • I think it is unfair to use Texas as the best example for gay/lesbian tolerance.  I would say using a more left-thinking state could find you a different outcome.

  • I don’t think there is a “best” example personally.  Each story is interesting and important in its own right.  The story about Andrew Goldstein at Dartmouth certainly paints a different picture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZWG0WkDhEc
    I don’t think this is an attempt to speak for everyone everywhere.  But hopefully, it’s a story that makes us all think on this a little deeper.

  • I have no problems with gays, and I don’t really understand why they’re still in some parts of the sports world frowned upon’d. They’re not much different from us at all, so why should we treat them different? Let them play. Let them help grow the game.

  • Thanks for the comment Steve.  At the end of the day the goal is to Grow the Game whether it is a “Right-Thinking” state or “Left”. 

  • Everyone should read this article for this line alone…
    “After I told my coach I was gay, I decided to let my co-captains know that there was a reason George Michael was on my iPod all the time.”

  • I’m not denying that there are homophobic lacrosse people out there, but I don’t see any evidence that it’s part of the “bro-culture” in lacrosse.  It seems you are painting the entire bro-culture (which this 36 year old balding man is not part of) as homophobic based one one misguided persons comment.  I may have an overly optimistic view of society, but I’d be willing to bet a soda that the vast majority high school and college aged lacrosse players would have no issue with an openly gay teammate.       

  • This is the first time it really did cross my mind to break that barrier. Perhaps the biggest problem is actually being aware of it, if it isn’t brought up, it really isn’t thought about. I also agree that a big problem with the sport is the growth of the image of the bro, and although it has helped the popularity, a lot of the time (I’ve been seeing this a lot with high school lacrosse players I know) it’s not about the love of the sport, or the love of the team, but being a bro, and representing the image of a lax bro, not a lax player. The culture of the game is in the process of shifting, but it’s important that people guide it to shift towards the right way, towards Growing The Game for everyone to play, just for the love of the game, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Much better – thank you! HRC does nothing to improve homophobia in the sports world (and very little anywhere else). 

  • This is a really good article. I know there are two sides to every story, but since the “bro culture” is heavily based on some combination of athletic and hipster fashion, I’m sure a lot of the bros get very defensive around actual homosexuals because they don’t want the “bro fashion” to be perceived as a homosexual style, because honestly, to me at least, the bro look does sort of evoke the image of gay fashion (granted, I’m from an upper-middle class suburb, so the bro look in my mind is more of the “Caddishack” and less of the pinnie and shorts appearance). I miss the good old days before the bros came along, when lacrosse was just about some guys who wanted to play a unique sport without judgment. Up until a few years ago, lacrosse at my high school was just some of the oddballs that didn’t really fit the athlete stereotype… now so many more people are just about looks and attitude and the sport has become much more cliquey and judgmental. I just want to play.

  • This is a good start.  The Lax Bro is certainly a hypersexual, overly masculine stereotype.  While not all people support the Lax Bro caricature, many use it to push the lacrosse lifestyle.  While no one would openly admit that homophobia is a part of the bro culture, it is obviously a silent element.  Like most instances of homophobia, the idea of homosexuality is strictly ignored and when confronted with it head on there is usually anger and denial and attempts to change the subject.  I’m seeing this anger and denial in some of the comments trying to deflect the idea of homophobia away from the bro culture.

    Further, we cannot pretend that the racial and socio-economic barriers separating lacrosse from large segments of the American population are gone.  A few outliers in he form of Kyle Harrison, Chazz Woodson, and the Brattons exist, but the participation rates for blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities for lacrosse are much lower than in other major sports (baseball, basketball, and football).  The difference is absolutely statistically significant.

    What is not likely to be statistically divergent is the amount of homosexuals playing lacrosse.  I’d argue that the rate of participation by homosexuals in lacrosse mirrors the occurrence rate in the general population but we just don’t know that because there are socially undesirable results for homosexuals to out themselves while playing.

  • Before you say anything else watch that video. Would you have known this player was gay unless he said so? Nope…so what does it matter? He was still able to accomplish the same if not more than other goalies

  • This type of change starts with coaches leading by example, just as Coach Dan Mahar at Oneonta who was mentioned in this article. Call someone out when they say something hateful, bigoted, or wrong. Remember that we’re not just building better athletes, we’re making them better human beings by giving them examples that should carry over to their every day lives.

  • I think this was well written and an important topic. I started playing lax in 2000, and around that time there was not of “bro-sciety” or anything like that. A lot of people out there has lost focus on the sport and would rather grow their hair out and wear outrageous shorts. These “bros” need to start taking a look around. Within the past few years this country has allowed same sex marriages, allowed openly gay members serve in the military (I served with some that turned out to be great friends). I think the problem we would run into is the bullying. I think at the college level people would be more mature about it, but in high school they would run into issues where it can effect the outcome of the season. Instead of looking at how a person is, the focus should be on what they can offer on the field. That “gay kid” that the “bros” dont want on their team just might turn out to be the leading scorer. Everyone just needs to be accepted and play the great game of lax.

  • However, I think Ivy League might be a little too left.  But yes, I promise you, no one on that Dartmouth squad cared about Goldstein’s sexuality, as he was an All-American, twice.  I think it comes down to people overplaying stereotypes.  Is it more a fear that a G/L person will not fit in or that if they outplay you, do you look bad?  We live in a society where how you appear to others has become extremely important to individuals, and discrimination has become a much easier out than acceptance.

  • Thank you! I’m glad that someone has finally said it, “Grow lax> Bro lax.” Although I am not gay either, I am 1/2 Iroquois and I believe fully that the whole “Bro” mentality is ruining the sport that is not only sacred to me and my people, but also means everything to me as well. 

  • I dint know any gay athletes though, that are willing going to put themselves on team where there going to get hazed. Gays already take enough, no need to get abused at lax.

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