Book review: Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports, by Cyd Zeigler

Zeigler Fair PlayZeigler, Cyd. Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place In Sports. Edge of Sports Publishing, 2016. Paper. $15.95. ISBN 978-1617754470.

In 1999, Zeigler co-founded Outsport, an online magazine dedicated to all aspects of LGBT participation in professional athletics. He thus draws on his knowledge and experience for this probing look at the state of LGBT acceptance in team sports, circa 2016. While more and more courageous players continue to reveal themselves as LGBT at all levels and in all types of sports, the playing field is still far from perfect.

Zeigler admits early on that his book primarily focuses on gay men in pro sports, though he does dedicate one chapter to lesbian athletes and sporadically mentions other women along the way. Hopefully, if there are updated editions in this title’s future, that imbalance will be rectified.

But in the meantime, Zeigler candidly examines the issues involved in gay athletes’ coming-out processes, and the support (or, often, lack thereof) they receive from teammates, coaches, and their sports’ front offices. He re-visits several high-profile cases, incidents, and “rumors,” both positive and negative, featuring familiar names such as Michael Sam, Tony Dungy, Jason Collins, Troy Aikman, Tim Tebow, Aaron Rodgers, and John Amaechi, among many others. In fairness, however, Zeigler also lauds those famous straight folks, such as Michael Irvin, who have publicly supported their gay teammates from day one, no questions asked. Zeigler gives due credit where it’s deserved, while sharply analyzing the deep undercurrents of squeamishness and hesitation that still stymie team sports’ full acceptance of their LGBT participants.

Lest we think, in light of recent events and all those court decisions, that the whole of society is becoming 100% LGBT-friendly, Cyd Zeigler is here to remind us that there’s still much work to be done. All that’s needed are a few (or more) good men and women athletes with the courage to be themselves. Fair Play is recommended for both sports- and LGBT-related general nonfiction collections.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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