When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
A day after basketball player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the country's big four pro sports, a DC lobbyist said he's working on legislation to keep gay players from ever following suit in the NFL.
Jack Burkman—whose lobbying firm, JM Burkman and Associates, pulled in $3.5 million last year—said he has garnered support for a bill that would ban gay football players from the professional ranks.
"We are losing our decency as a nation," Burkman said in a statement. "Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That's a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?"
Burkman said he came up with the idea after college football star Michael Sam came out as gay a few weeks ago. If drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL…
"If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it," Burkman said.
(No word on what Burkman thinks about the four gay NFL players who came out after their playing days were over: Dave Kopay, Esera Tuaolo, Wade Davis, and Rod Simmons, who died Thursday.)
Publicity stunt aside, this isn't the first time Burkman has weighed in on gay rights. In February 2013, he took to his Radio America show, Behind the Curtain With Jack Burkman, to discuss the softening of the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members, lamenting how the "establishment media push[es] everybody around, forcing us all to accept homosexuality as just something natural." He continued: "Ladies and gentleman, if you have a son in the Boy Scouts, get him out. Get him out now."
Burkman, onetime counsel to former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), is no stranger to controversy. In 2006, he went on MSNBC's Scarborough Country and said that "within hours of those towers going down," the wives of the 9/11 victims "were ready to make money and exploit this tragedy." Then, in 2007, he was linked to the DC Madam.
University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam shocked the sports world Sunday when he announced that he is gay. The National Football League has never had an openly gay player, and the timing of his announcement—just weeks before the league's so-called combine, when draft-eligible players like Sam are put through the paces in front of scouts and team executives—has been hailed as incredibly brave.
But as Kevin Drum noted Sunday night, a group of NFL front-office types had a different take. Severalteam executives anonymously questioned Sam's talent and pro prospects in a SI.com article published after his announcement. Sample line, from a personnel assistant: "I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game." Worse still, some of them argued that teams would lower Sam on their draft boards, or not draft him at all, simply because he's gay.
Is that legal? Do state and local laws protect potential draftees from discrimination based on sexual orientation? And what about the NFL's own nondiscrimination policy? Here's a brief explainer:
As the world gears up for the Sochi Games, we reached out to these three amazing women to talk about everything from their first runs to high-speed crashes to race and gender politics. The opening ceremonies take place on Friday, February 7. Here's the complete schedule of events.
Jazmine Fenlator, 28, bobsled
A lot of people think I'm on the Jamaican bobsled team. It's a question every black bobsledder gets, even if you're wearing a USA shirt. My dad used to love watching Cool Runnings with me. When I told him I got an invite to try out for the US bobsled team, his first words were: "Sanka! You dead, mon? Let me kiss your lucky egg!" Growing up biracial, I never really thought about things: I mean, you have some acceptance issues, but I grew up in a predominately white town. The side of my family I'm closest with is all white, so it's not necessarily a topic of conversation. You get a lot of naive questions, but I welcome those. The more people I can teach and tell about bobsled, the more cheers we'll have in Sochi. Not many people can relate to bobsled, and it's hard to spectate. It's a grueling, blue-collar sport. To support my bobsled habit, I've sometimes worked three jobs in the offseason. We do all the work on our sleds. We carry our sleds. There's no caddy, there's no pit crew. We handle all those things on top of trying to be the best athletes within our sport in the world.
Click here to read our extended interview with Fenlator. Women's "bobsleigh" heats begin on February 18.
Katie Uhlaender, 29, skeleton
I always challenged men in foot races or whatever as a kid growing up, because it was a way of challenging myself—but you have to accept that men are born with testosterone. You can beat them for so long, but eventually they're gonna catch up. There is a double standard: My father was a major league baseball player, and I grew up thinking I could have the same attitude on the field that he did. When I did that in real life, people thought I was a total bi-atch. [Laughs.] Women are held to a different standard, but there's a reason. Because we are mothers, we have a different role in society. There are certain benefits we get being women—and we deserve them! But don't take advantage of them. You have to walk the line and show that you have self-worth. If you lose yourself, then no one's going to respect you. Miley Cyrus, the girl crossed the line! You can be sexy without licking a hammer.
Click here to read our extended interview with Uhlaender. Women's skeleton commences on February 13.
Maddie Bowman, 20, halfpipe freeskiing
Some people don't understand that you can ski in the halfpipe. They think it's cool and kinda crazy. It's like a polar bear-grizzly bear mix—a pizzly. It's a new species and it's super badass! I was a racer before, but it felt a little too serious. My parents were a little resistant, but then they skied with us and realized we think about things before we jump off of stuff. They definitely get nervous. You can't have my mom video a run at all because it's so shaky—she always misses it! The first time I ever did a "left nine"—it's two and a half spins, and I'm spinning down the wall, rotating to the left—I was so excited I completely forgot the rest of my run; I just sort of made it up. Most skiers, we can think pretty quickly on our feet—or off our feet if we're falling. We like to push the limits, but when the limits push back, it's always a rude awakening. Concussions and injuries are something everyone worries about. But you can't be out there worrying about getting hurt, or else you're more likely to get hurt. If I got hurt, knock on wood, I don't know what I would do. Maybe I'd actually be a real college student.
Click here to read more about Bowman. The women's halfpipe competition is on February 20.
As far as Katie Uhlaender can tell, skeleton—which involves hurtling yourself face-first on a sled down an icy course at top speeds of nearly 90 miles an hour—is the safest sport she has ever tried. "I've had eight surgeries," she says, "but none of them were from skeleton."
Four years ago, preparing for the Vancouver Olympics, Uhlaender twice shattered her left knee—the first time in a backcountry snowmobile accident—requiring four surgeries and keeping her on crutches until 20 weeks before the Games. Add in the emotional pain of the death of her father, former major league outfielder Ted Uhlaender, and it's no wonder that she struggled to an 11th-place finish in Vancouver.
Now, for the second Olympics in a row, Uhlaender is coming off an injury. This time, it's skeleton-related: She suffered a concussion on a training run in Lake Placid a few months ago and was limited throughout the fall. "It was the first time in 10 years that I've had to not take the second run," she says.
With Sochi on the horizon, I chatted with the 2012 world champ about how she got her start on the sled, how to slide without thinking, and how to manage the double-standard between men and women, in sports and beyond:
Mother Jones: So how did you ever get started in skeleton?
Katie Uhlaender: I just happened to get to meet someone completely random and got sucked in before I knew better. [Laughs.] I just met a girl who was a bobsledder, and she talked me into trying it. Three weeks into it I won junior nationals, fourth week I went to junior worlds, eighth week I won senior nationals. I kind of started winning right away, and it was either go to college and get a Ph.D. or become an Olympian. So I basically made a choice.
MJ: Had you played a lot of sports growing up?
KU: My father was a major league baseball player, so if you weren't an athlete, you weren't cool. I just was an athlete and was looking for a sport, and that's what happened. I just took advantage of an opportunity and made a choice.
MJ: What was it like to have so much success so early?
KU: It's all relative, right? First, when I went to junior worlds, I was conflicted because I didn't feel like I deserved it. And then I talked to my dad, and he referenced his first at-bat in the big leagues. He couldn't stop shaking. And then he realized that every legend before him took the same steps he took up to the plate. Once you get to the plate, you have two options: You either quit, or you try to hit the ball.