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New study suggests sports fans like when their teams embrace LGBT diversity

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Fandom is ready, pro sports! Really!

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

(A/N: What is UP, SCoC! Long time no chat! I'm going to be coming atcha with history and/or Chris Kelly related goodness shortly, but in the meantime, something a little different!)

So check out this cool bit of research, kids:

"Study results suggest that professional teams that endorse an LGBT-inclusive vision of diversity in sports are viewed favorably by the public and could gain support from LGBT fans."

This is the main takeaway from a report issued today by the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. The study, authored by Laura E. Durso, Sarah McBride, and Caitlin Rooney, asked a group of survey respondents about four major issues surrounding pro sports teams and social causes (such as support for and inclusion of LGBT players and fans). The results were interesting, and--depending on your take on the state of sports fandom vis-a-vis these issues--possibly sort of surprising. Let's dig in, shall we?

Here are the research questions the survey attempted to answer:

  • To what degree do people believe that professional sports teams should take public stances on social causes?
  • How do opinions of professional sports teams change if those teams express support for LGBT athletes and fans?
  • How do opinions of professional sports teams change if those teams express support for laws protecting LGBT people?
  • Does the explicit inclusion of LGBT people in diversity statements affect perceptions of professional sports teams?

The results of the survey are meaty, and I'm not going to go into crazy detail about the individual responses, but in each case a majority of people said their opinions of a professional sports team would be improved, or wouldn't change at all, should the team take a stance on social issues or publicly support LGBT athletes/fans/laws protecting the same. Here's a bit from the question on a team's support of LGBT fans and players:

"Overall, 56.1 percent of respondents stated that their opinion of a professional sports team would become ‘somewhat more positive' or ‘significantly more positive' if the team ‘expressed support for LGBT athletes and fans.' Another 36.2 percent responded that their opinion ‘would not change at all.' Only 7.6 percent answered that their opinion would become ‘somewhat more negative' or ‘significantly more negative.'"

The general conclusion from all this analysis, according to the authors? "Results of this study indicate that professional sports teams that make public statements in support of LGBT equality for both athletes and everyday people will generally be viewed favorably by the public at large."

Personally, I find these results to be pretty encouraging, and perhaps more to the point, I hope that professional sports franchises take this message to heart: in general, a majority of sports fans are ready for inclusivity and support of diverse populations, including the LGBT population. Programs such as You Can Play have certainly attracted the involvement of some pro sports franchises, but--at least according to this study--folks in this country are ready for broader support. In other words: this is your now, professional sports teams of America!

For the entire report, which includes breakdowns of responses by age group and political affiliation, as well as information about the methodology underpinning the survey, check out "LGBT Inclusion in Sports: Beliefs About the Role of Professional Sports in Public Life"!