From physical education class to the playing field, athletic spaces at school are often hostile places for LGBTQ youth. Unfortunately, these spaces can be so hostile that many students outright avoid them: Nearly a third avoid P.E. classes, and over a fifth avoid school athletics fields and facilities due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, according to GLSEN research. 

In an effort to create safer sports spaces for LGBTQ students—and help all students thrive in school—GLSEN Oregon has partnered with the Nike LGBTQ employee resource group for over a decade. Through our partnership, we bring together LGBTQ student athletes, allies, K-12 school athletic staff, school counselors, GSA student members and their advisors. Together, we share how to build safe spaces and encourage teams to build positive relationships among their teammates, athletic staff and others within their schools.

Since 2014, GLSEN Oregon and Nike have held an annual Youth Sports Summit. At these summits, members of school communities, ranging from small rural districts to large metro ones, learn about ways to establish positive sports environments. From avoiding anti-LGBTQ jokes and language to showing support for LGBTQ students athletes with a GLSEN Safe Space Sticker, we exchange a number of ways that student athletes, coaches, parents and school personnel can foster a positive climate in sports spaces at school. 

Members of school communities play a major role in creating safe sports spaces, but so do professional athletes and sports organizations, because young people look to them when choosing how to act on the field, on the court or in the locker room. When professional sports organizations visibly take action when a group is unfairly singled out or maligned, young people listen. Simply put, the leadership of these organizations matters for creating more positive experiences for LGBTQ youth in school athletics.

For this LGBT Pride Month, I am honored that GLSEN has partnered with one of these organizations, the NBA. In collaboration with TeeSpring, the NBA is offering shirts for every single NBA team, each shirt featuring the team’s logo in Pride-themed rainbow colors. Proceeds will support GLSEN’s work, including programming like GLSEN Oregon’s Nike Youth Sports Summit, where we continue to work towards safe sports spaces in school and more positive school climates for all.

Whether you’re an LGBTQ student athlete, coach, P.E. teacher or an ally, think about how you can show your LGBTQ pride this month, and check out GLSEN resources on how to make sports spaces safer and more affirming in every K-12 school.

Danni/y Rosen is Chair of GLSEN Oregon.

Pride shirts for every NBA team are available for purchase here. All proceeds benefit GLSEN.