The Minnesota Vikings will become the first NFL team to host a large-scale summit on LGBTQ athlete inclusion in sports this summer. The event will take place June 21 and will welcome various athletes, parents of LGBTQ youth and coaches in various panels. Some of the featured guests include Olympic diver Greg Louganis and former Viking Esera Tuaolo.
“I think it sends a message that we at the Vikings, and others, believe in being inclusive,” Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren told USA TODAY Sports. “My hope and desire is that this inspires individuals, this inspires businesses and corporate entities, and inspires sports teams, in all sports, to really sit back and say, this is a fact of life. This is reality. We have individuals who may be in pain on our teams. They may not feel they have an opportunity to talk about these issues, and hopefully this is the spark to get some of these issues out on the table and allow people to become more comfortable in addressing these issues.”
Twin Cities LGBTQ organizations and athletes and coaches from high schools and colleges are expected to be in attendance. The purpose of the event is not only to promote equality and inclusion with LGBTQ athletes, but also to raise funds for charities, both in the Twin Cities and nationwide.
Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe will also take part in the event. Kluwe has long been an advocate for LGBTQ rights, including serving as grand marshal during the Twin Cities Pride Parade in 2013. According to Kluwe, it was his outspokenness on the issue that ultimately led to his release from the team. He also accused his former special teams coach of making homophobic remarks. Since then, the Vikings and Kluwe have begun to improve their relationship. Kluwe has been on hand in an advisory role as the team prepares to host the summit.
“Hopefully the big take away is that having LGBTQ individuals in your locker room isn’t the end of the world, right? This is something that lots of teams are dealing with, especially at the high school and college level, and it’s hopefully something we see teams starting to address more at the professional level,” Kluwe said. “For me, that’s particularly the NFL, but the other major organizations as well, it’s that we want openly out gay players to be able to play. It shouldn’t be that you’re frightened to be who you are while you’re trying to pursue this immensely difficult athletic career.”