UCLA coach Jim Mora is the first current major college football coach to encourage gay athletes to play for his team.
UCLA is the latest program to release a “You Can Play” video, which encourages acceptance and tolerance for homosexual athletes in all levels of athletics. The video features various coaches and athletes from around the UCLA campus – including starting quarterback Brett Hundley – but this is the first time a head football coach has been featured prominently in the campaign.
Duke University also did a “You Can Play” video, but coach David Cutcliffe (and basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski) was not featured in the spot. Duke running back Juwan Thompson and defensive end Dezmond Johnson did make an appearance.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressell told Outlook Columbus magazine in 2010 that he'd also welcome gay football players at Ohio State.
In the video, Mora comes in at about the 20-second mark and says: “At UCLA, we play with integrity and we honor diversity. We respect all athletes and coaches. If you can play, you can play. And if you can coach, you can coach.”
Outsports.com noted that on Monday, 100 coaches and 600 athletes attended a symposium regarding homophobia in athletics and said every varsity sport, including football, was represented. The article also noted that UCLA currently has no out homosexual athletes at this time.
"It doesn't matter to me," Mora told OutSports.com. "I don't judge people on their color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs. It doesn't matter to me."
Homophobia in sports has been a hot-button topic for awhile, but it has intensified in the past few months as speculation about gay NFL players coming out has taken center stage. There has been little public talk about this topic in college football, but it’s something Mora told OutSports.com is on the horizon.
“I talk to these kids about everything,” Mora said. “There's nothing that's off-topic. But I haven't seen the opportunity yet. Maybe I need to be more observant. Maybe there are things being said that I don't hear. It's not that I'm afraid to talk about it or don't want to, it's just I haven't felt compelled to yet."
Currently, there are no out college football players in the FBS.
Last September, junior college linebacker Jamie Kuntz told Yahoo! Sports he was dismissed from the North Dakota State College of Science football team after several players saw him kissing his boyfriend while he was supposed to be filming the game.
Kuntz, a linebacker, was working the camera because an injury had kept him off the field. Until that point, Kuntz had not come out to any of his teammates or coaches. When the team returned from its road trip, Kuntz was told he was a distraction and dismissed from the program.
"It was awful," Kuntz said of coming out that way. "Especially being a football player and trying to make a name for myself. It was one of those things where I wanted to do it on my own time, not when all this happened."
Kuntz is still looking for a team. He had a walk-on opportunity with Palomar Community College, but before he was set to arrive on campus, coaches changed their minds.
Mora said UCLA would be a tolerant place for players like Kuntz.
"In the locker room, in the meeting rooms, on the campus it's going to be something that isn't an issue," Mora told the website. "UCLA is a very tolerant campus for all different beliefs. Most college campuses are like that. There are guys like [gay-friendly NFL linebacker] Scott Fujita in every locker room. I can't say there won't be some tense moments, but these kids are very young and very tolerant. Sometimes they're ignorant, and it just takes them growing up and learning a little.”
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