Sport employees who champion LGBT inclusion efforts represent key elements in creating accepting environments within college athletic departments. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine the concept of champions and how they support LGBT individuals within heterosexist sport environments. Drawing from divergent literatures, including that related to organizational inclusion and championing behaviors, we explore how a combination of factors from multiple levels may influence sport employees’ attitude and behaviors related to LGBT inclusion, and determine how supportive behaviors influence sexual minorities working within a college athletic department. Results indicate that various macro- (i.e., culture of sport, athletic boosters, university and community values, exposure to diverse cultures) meso- (organizational culture, presence of other champions), and micro- (demographics, open-mindedness, experiences with sexual minorities) level factors influenced the level of employee support for LGBT inclusive policies. Furthermore, power meaningfully influenced these dynamics, such that employees who did not resemble prototypically sport employees (i.e., White, heterosexual, male) were hesitant to show support for LGBT equality. However, those who did champion LGBT inclusive initiatives successfully modeled supportive behaviors and positive attitudes toward LGBT individuals, vocally opposed discriminatory treatment, and provided sexual minorities with a safe space within sport. The authors discuss implications and future directions.
Melton is with the Department of Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. Cunningham is with the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A & M University, College Station, TX.