Vikings host first NFL LGBTQ inclusion summit in sports  

"One of the main things is that diversity is important because it makes your organization stronger."

Sloane Martin
June 21, 2018 - 5:34 pm

Vikings team reporter Eric Smith

The Vikings today hosted a summit Thursday focused on LGBTQ inclusion in sports, along with a fundraiser for local and national LGBTQ organizations.

About 150 people attended at the Vikings' new Eagan practice facility and headquarters to learn about the importance of diversity and inclusion from former Olympic diver Greg Louganis, former Vikings player Esera Tuaolo and others. The 60 organizations in attendance included 13 other NFL teams, college and high school coaches, as well as representatives from the Lynx, Timberwolves and the Wild.

The summit stems from the settlement reached with former punter Chris Kluwe, who in 2014 threatened to sue after accusing special teams coordinator Mike Priefer of using homophobic language.

Kluwe says the message of the Vikings event needs to spread through sports organizations and beyond.

"One of the main things is that diversity is important because it makes your organization stronger," he said. "When your athletes, or even people within your organization, like front office people or coaches, whoever — when they're not allowed to be themselves, then they're not performing at their best and you're costing yourself chances to win, you're costing yourself chances to make money. I think it's really important that people understand that diversity isn't just a socially good thing to do, from a business perspective, from a winning perspective it's also a really good thing to do."

Samantha Rapoport, the senior director of development with the NFL and one of the speakers, says teams are stepping up to be more inclusive, but there is still more work to do.

"I believe that they can make that change. It doesn't even have to be on this ground scale, what the Vikings just executed here. It could be smaller. It could be marches in the pride parade, rainbow apparel with their club's logo. There's little things that they can do to show this percentage of the population that we care about you and you belong in sports."

Topics included how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, firsthand experiences from trailblazing athletes, the role of coaches in creating an inclusive environment, and the importance of LGBTQ visibility.