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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 01:09 AM   #1
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On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

This is two years old. I don't know how I missed it at the time.

Tennis note from the article. When Amelie Mauresmo came out, it didn't cost her any endorsements. (Of course, we're talking France here, which has historically been a ore tolerant society than the USA.)

http://www.afterellen.com/People/2006/10/athletes.html
Quote:
Lesbian Athletes Finally Get Their Own Deals
Quote:

by Kaki Flynn
, Contributing Writer
October 12, 2006

On the premiere issue of Sports Illustrated Women/Sport, a spin-off of Sports Illustrated that launched in 1997, a pregnant Sheryl Swoopes graced the cover. She was holding a basketball and wearing a Houston Comets jersey, and emblazoned on the magazine cover were the words, “A Star is Born.” The Comets, a team on which Swoopes would play for the next decade, was part of the newly formed Women's National Basketball League that was set to launch that summer.
Swoopes had just been a part of the 1996 Dream Team, a women's basketball team of college stars that won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta — the Games that many credit for introducing women's sports to the world. The 1996 Games also started to bring in sponsorships, appearance fees and other perks for women athletes that up until then mostly went to a handful of women in tennis and golf.
In 2005, Swoopes come out as a lesbian, becoming the second openly gay player in the WNBA. To the surprise of many, this revelation did not cause Swoopes to lose any of her sponsorships. In fact, Swoopes' coming out was prompted by her signing of a six-figure endorsement deal with lesbian travel and lifestyle company Olivia.
As evidenced by Swoopes, women athletes have made significant strides in gaining recognition and sponsorship dollars over the past decade. But they still struggle in comparison to male athletes. Lax enforcement of Title IX — the law that mandated equal opportunities and money for both men and women athletes in schools — has held back the development of women's sports. Cultural issues continue to prevent women from competing in sports; the mentality that boys sweat, girls don't has not been completely erased.
And the pervasive perception that women athletes are lesbians has handicapped both queer and straight female professional athletes. But with the gradual emergence of a number of openly lesbian athletes who have been able to keep their endorsement deals, including Swoopes, times are changing.
In 1996, however, sponsors just weren't sure how to market the female athlete. Real women athletes, like Martina Navratilova, have actual muscles, and sponsors weren't sure what to do with that — so they stuck waif-like models in sporty clothes and non-sporty poses, and used those for ads.
What was wrong with muscles and sporty haircuts? The issue was one that kept percolating around the women's sports world, and the consensus seemed to be: If you look sporty or buff, you must be a lesbian. And being a lesbian is a bad thing, as was illustrated by a story inside that first issue of Women/Sports with Swoopes on the cover.
In a three-page excerpt from her book, Living the Dream, Dot Richardson, a member of the 1996 gold medal-winning U.S. softball team, wrote: “I believe that the stereotyping of female athletes as lesbians has been one of the biggest hindrances to the development of women in sports.” Richardson was so distraught at being thought of as a lesbian because she played softball that she considered quitting. She even thought about committing suicide because she thought she would never get a date with a man.
The negative stereotype that women athletes are lesbians is the issue that both Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova — two of the greatest tennis players of all time — feel killed their endorsements more than anything else.
King lost her endorsements within 24 hours of being outed by her ex-girlfriend in 1981. After Navratilova was essentially pushed out of the closet by reporters when she was dating author Rita Mae Brown in the 1980s, she did not receive any national sponsorships until 2000, when she shot her first commercial for Subaru. (In 1995, the company had commissioned a study that showed that lesbians loved their cars, which eventually lead to signing Navratilova.)
Today, a huge disparity in sponsorship money still exists based on looks, not just sexual orientation. Maria Sharapova, the tall, lanky, blond tennis player currently ranked third on the Women's Tennis Association tour, is now the highest paid female athlete in the world, with $20 million a year in endorsements, according to Forbes magazine.
The athlete who is ranked first in the WTA, Amelie Mauresmo, came out in 1999 when she introduced her then-girlfriend to reporters at the Australian Open. Mauresmo, who is more fit-looking than Sharapova and has been characterized as masculine by some blogs, thankfully did not lose any of her endorsements when she came out. This is surely a step forward, but at the same time, the agreements she currently has with Dunlop for rackets and her part in Reebok's “I am what I am” campaign are nowhere near Sharapova's $20 million.

While the amount of money that gay athletes can command in comparison to straight or closeted athletes is not equal, it is slowly catching up, and being a lesbian is no longer certain death like it once was.
Corporations are slowly becoming more open to gays and lesbians, so the I can't come out because I won't get endorsements argument seems weaker and weaker. How could a company support gay employees, but not sponsor a gay athlete? In July 2005, Nike was willing to take heat from conservatives for endorsing a bill supporting same-sex marriage in Oregon, its home state.
Athletes no longer need to rely only on mainstream companies for corporate sponsorships; gay companies are also now emerging to take advantage of the estimated $250 billion gay and lesbian market in the United States, and to sponsor athletes and events. The company that has been the clear leader in this area is Olivia, the lesbian-owned company best known for its lesbian cruises.
Olivia's first sponsorship was for LPGA player Rosie Jones, who came out in March 2004. For the first time, a company supported an athlete coming out rather than dropping them or avoiding them altogether. Although Jones did not have the fame of Navratilova and Swoopes, whom Olivia sponsored after her, she was a good fit for Olivia's social mission. She would let the people that took an Olivia trip know that you can be gay, a pro athlete and get endorsements, said Amy Errett, Olivia's CEO.
Our mission is to transform the lives of lesbians and women, Errett explained. Sheryl and Rosie were both going through transitions in their lives, and both have inspiring stories. [Jones] is a very accomplished pro golfer, was a lesbian, and was willing to wear the logo of the gay company.
Olivia is used to being groundbreaking, and CEO Errett sees herself as a social mission advocate first. Olivia started as a recording company, when women weren't being recorded or being taken seriously as musicians, said Errett. When the Olivia cruises started, we had to go to a cruise line and convince them to rent a boat to a bunch of lesbians.
Signing with Olivia didn't hurt Jones; it helped her. Since joining the company, she has added more sponsorships, including Titelist, which manufactures balls and other golf equipment, and Yes, a brand of putter.
Jones also commentated for several golf tournaments for the Golf Channel this year, a deal the channel offered her after she came out. In an interview with the Advocate, Jones said that she could not have come out publicly 22 years ago when she started playing on tour, because she felt like the administration or the sponsors wouldn't be as accepting of it as they are now.

It was a little more than 10 years ago that Ben Wright, a CBS broadcaster, told a reporter from the Delaware News Journal: Let's face facts here. Lesbians in the sport hurt women's golf. ¦ They're going to a butch game and that furthers the bad image of the game.
Now, fans can download a desktop wallpaper from LPGA.com with Jones wearing Olivia gear from head to toe.
Kate Bednarski, vice president of brand marketing for Olivia, was previously the global director of Nike's women's division, and has worked in the athletic footwear and apparel industry for 18 years. She has seen how corporate attitudes towards gay and women athletes have changed.
We had a significant increase in people booking tours after we signed Rosie Jones, Bednarski said. Jones did not come out in a sports publication, but in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, a paper that is read by all kinds of people, not just golf fans.
Errett said, When we signed up to endorse Sheryl, she had just been named MVP of the league two weeks before. Sheryl came out because of the endorsement, because she would have to explain her affiliation. Swoopes was married to Eric Jackson and was pregnant with their child at the time of the Women/Sport cover, but they divorced after she gave birth. In 1998, she met Houston Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott, with whom she is now in a relationship.
Both Swoopes and Jones expressed fears they would be dumped by their other sponsors when they signed with Olivia. After Swoopes' coming-out, Olivia developed the See Red campaign to enable fans to show their support for the basketball star. Street teams of lesbians in a dozen WNBA cities handed out red buttons printed with Swoopes' jersey number, 22, and Olivia's tagline, Feel Free.
We started the campaign about four months ago, Bednarski said. The idea was to ” as Sheryl started her first WNBA season after coming out last October ” to find a way for fans to show support for Sheryl, and for ending homophobia in sports.
Proceeds from the buttons go to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a nonprofit legal resource organization that has a sports project headed up by Helen Carroll, a former college athletic director and basketball coach. NCLR supports athletes who come out, but is also willing to fight legal battles, if necessary, for athletes who are being harassed due to sexual orientation.



Bednarski said that as a gay woman, she recognizes all of the conflicting messages we still have, and the fear some athletes still live with. Because of this, she realizes the appeal of Olivia's athletes isn't just about sports, but is also about them being brave lesbians.
There are a few places where you live, like San Francisco, where you have a safety bubble, but for some people, where they live is a scary place to be a lesbian, Bednarski acknowledged.
She sees more and more companies following in the footsteps of Nike and starting to take a stand for equality. This year, 51 percent of the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
There have also been changes in mainstream sports and mainstream culture. Being a lesbian athlete is not sponsorship poison anymore; corporations have caught on to those cultural changes, said Pat Griffin, the director of the Women's Sports Foundation's It Takes A Team project. One of the goals of the project is to end homophobia in sports through education.
Griffin travels to colleges and high schools doing diversity training for coaches, athletes and administrators. She said there are now so many athletes who are out at the collegiate and professional level that it's hard to keep track of them. The gay and lesbian sports market is about to explode, Griffin said. Many of these athletes are moving up to the Olympic level in his or her sport and will be playing as an out athlete. These women are also getting coaching jobs, and being out there, as well.
She acknowledged that You still have the Renee Portlands, referring to the Penn State basketball coach whose name has now become a catchphrase for a homophobe in the sports world because of her open policy forbidding drugs and lesbians on her team. For the past year, NCLR has been supporting basketball player Jennifer Harris in a lawsuit against Coach Portland, who dismissed her from the team because she mistakenly thought that Harris was gay. Although Penn State, in an internal investigation, concluded that Portland had discriminated against Harris, Portland was not removed from her position.
The combination of more athletes coming out of the closet sooner and in higher numbers, corporations becoming more gay-friendly, people speaking out against injustices such as the Portland case, and broader cultural changes that indicate more acceptance of LGBT people, is culminating in an environment that is increasingly supportive of openly gay athletes.
In the case of Rosie Jones, one could argue that being out helped her twice: first with the Olivia sponsorship, second with the Golf Channel. With a glut of golfers below the Annika line ” Annika Sorenstam being one of the few golfers the general public knows ” coming out may have given Jones the publicity that got her the position as a commentator on the Golf Channel.
Though Navratilova and King may never recoup the money they lost in endorsements after they came out, they are catching up. Navratilova released a book this year, Shape Your Self, that shows people how to attain those very muscles that many felt hurt her image decades ago. In April 2006, King was the subject of an HBO documentary, Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer, that examined her historic role in battling sexism in women's sports.
As for Swoopes, Olivia gave out 30,000 red buttons at games, Pride parades and the Gay Games this past year. If the WNBA ever doubted whether or not there were lesbian fans, now they knew ” half of the fans in many of the games were wearing the buttons.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 02:07 AM   #2
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

i think its maybe easier for female atheletes to come out because society almost expects top women to be celebrities. look at tennis can you imagine what would happen to Nadal if it came out that he and moya were really a couple? and why do people think that Ian thorpe never came out.... Its sad the society is still so close minded but i guess it wont change sooon...
that said as a gay boy i wouldnt buy something just cause it was advertised by a gay man..
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 02:22 AM   #3
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

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Originally Posted by austennis View Post
....can you imagine what would happen to Nadal if it came out that he and moya were really a couple?
Mouth-watering prospect!!

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Originally Posted by austennis View Post
...as a gay boy...
How u doin!!
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 03:14 AM   #4
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

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why do people think that Ian Thorpe never came out....
uh ... most people think Ian Thorpe never came out, when they think about Ian Thorpe at all, because he isn't gay. That's why most people don't come out. Put 'Greg Louganis' in that sentence, OTOH, and you're getting somewhere.


It's not a phenomena that gets much play, but a lot of straight guys are perfectly comfortable socializing with gays and lesbians. Being a straight guy doesn't automatically mean you're insecure with your sexuality. Really.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 03:18 AM   #5
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

Thx, haven't seen this yet...Yes, there is still a long long long way to go, it's pathetic really.

BTW, This is very appropriate since I just submitted my Momo Poll!

Come on Ame!!!
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 04:11 AM   #6
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

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Originally Posted by Volcana View Post
This is two years old. I don't know how I missed it at the time.

Tennis note from the article. When Amelie Mauresmo came out, it didn't cost her any endorsements. (Of course, we're talking France here, which has historically been a ore tolerant society than the USA.)
It might be interesting to note, though, that Mauresmo came out off-court at the same time she did in the rankings--she never got to accrue the real megabucks contracts before the sponsors were forced to deal with her sexuality. The sponsors got the whole package at once (so to speak). And let's face it-- Mauresmo wasn't someone who was going to be pushed for her sex appeal. It isn't that there's nothing sexy about her; it's that she didn't fit the stereotypical mold that would later be cast in the shape of Anna Kournikova.

If Perez Hilton were to suddenly reach into his grease-stained and stale-Red-Bull-scented magic hat and pull out a few JPGs of Maria and Camilla in a flying tongue-lock, though, we'd have a good idea where the oft-appealed-to (but rarely seen) "public morals" and the tolerance of big-dollar companies stand viz-a-viz the acceptance of lesbian athletes.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 04:29 AM   #7
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

Quote:
Originally Posted by Volcana View Post
uh ... most people think Ian Thorpe never came out, when they think about Ian Thorpe at all, because he isn't gay. That's why most people don't come out. Put 'Greg Louganis' in that sentence, OTOH, and you're getting somewhere.


It's not a phenomena that gets much play, but a lot of straight guys are perfectly comfortable socializing with gays and lesbians. Being a straight guy doesn't automatically mean you're insecure with your sexuality. Really.
righttttt, Ian thorpe is not gay
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 01:01 PM   #8
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements



Momo is hot...........
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 01:12 PM   #9
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

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Originally Posted by Albireo View Post
It might be interesting to note, though, that Mauresmo came out off-court at the same time she did in the rankings--she never got to accrue the real megabucks contracts before the sponsors were forced to deal with her sexuality. The sponsors got the whole package at once (so to speak). And let's face it-- Mauresmo wasn't someone who was going to be pushed for her sex appeal. It isn't that there's nothing sexy about her; it's that she didn't fit the stereotypical mold that would later be cast in the shape of Anna Kournikova.

If Perez Hilton were to suddenly reach into his grease-stained and stale-Red-Bull-scented magic hat and pull out a few JPGs of Maria and Camilla in a flying tongue-lock, though, we'd have a good idea where the oft-appealed-to (but rarely seen) "public morals" and the tolerance of big-dollar companies stand viz-a-viz the acceptance of lesbian athletes.

WORD.

Amelie, although gorgeous to me, isnt exactly a sharapova lookalike. She is never gonna get the endorsements that sharapova does, because maria adds glamour and sex appeal to products. I dont think amelie is really about that.

You think if sharapova came out as a lesbian () she would get sacked by her 1242322 sponsers? Doubtful.

I think that 'tolerance' and 'acceptance', sadly, depends on the person and their marketability in sport.

Look, acceptance has come a long way. but there is still a long way to go.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 02:15 PM   #10
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

How did both of you miss the fact that Volcana was pointing out Momo DIDN'T lose endorsements?

R.I.F., y'all.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 03:00 PM   #11
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

I agree w/whoever said If Maria were to come out as a lesbian she wouldn't lose any sponsers. I think there would have to be some kind of public display to even make them think about dropping her.
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 04:00 PM   #12
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

Ian Thorpe girlfriend Fox Sports News presenter Lee Furlong





Wish I was gay like him
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 01:40 AM   #13
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Re: On 'Out' Lesbian Athletes and Endorsements

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How did both of you miss the fact that Volcana was pointing out Momo DIDN'T lose endorsements?

R.I.F., y'all.
Not sure who you're referring to here, Griffin, but I'll assume I'm one of the "both."

I didn't miss that particular fact. My point--tangential and poorly-made as it may be--was that Mauresmo's endorsements aren't all of the same type as, say, Sharapova's. Mauresmo hasn't been pushed on the basis of sex appeal, so the companies that sponsor her don't have "as much to lose" by her being gay. (Admittedly, I don't know all of Mauresmo's sponsorship deals.)

In any case, I think it's difficult to say that Mauresmo didn't lose anything. We don't KNOW for a fact that her name wasn't scratched off some ad-exec's list of potentials when she came out, or that she's getting endorsement money commensurate to what she would get if she was straight. No-one may have dropped her afterward, but can we say for sure that she's getting relatively the same dough as, say, Mary Pierce after Pierce's second Slam?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hayleytrotter View Post

You think if sharapova came out as a lesbian () she would get sacked by her 1242322 sponsers? Doubtful.
My choice of Sharapova was perhaps inappropriate, as being a Grand Slam champ has made her even more vastly marketable than any of the other "Tennis Totty" (as they say on Fleet Street). Maybe someone like Maria Kirilenko--better-known for her looks than her results--might have been a better example; Sharapova has transcended the fear of losing endorsements pretty well since taking her Slams. But I think it's disengenuous to think that her endorsements wouldn't be affected at all if she and Belle were caught in flagrante delicto. (Given the way the blogosphere is starting to pay attention, it may be only a matter of time before someone in the major media asks, anyway.) No, Sharapova wouldn't be gouged by the loss of major endorsements, but you can be pretty sure that some of the minor ones might take a moment's pause, and perhaps a few potential deals from new sponsors might be shuffled elsewhere. Remember, it was partly the fear-of-queer that helped galvanize the recent re-election of a certain president, and while many companies would fear the backlash of support for the player, many others would worry more about alienating the "moral majority."
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