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Nevin Caple's Mission to Change Intercollegiate and Professional Sports

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Nevin Caple is a co-founder and executive director of the Br{ache the Silence Campaign, founded to advance acceptance within the intercollegiate and professional athletic community through campus various LGBTQA-led initiatives. GLAAD recently sat down with Caple, who also played Division I basketball at Fairleigh Dickinson University, to discuss her experiences as an LGBT athlete. In addition, she discusses with GLAAD the necessity for pro-LGBT voices within women's sports and the positive initiatives Br{ache the Silence Campaign is implementing across the country.

Elliott Moore: What is the overall mission of the Br{ache the Silence campaign?

Nevin Caple: To advance gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender inclusion in intercollegiate and professional athletics with a focus on increasing the visibility of positive role models. We work primarily in the women’s college sports community.

EM: Why did you choose to spell Br{ache the Silence the way it is spelled?

NC: There’s so much heartache in silence and every time silence is broken, another voice is heard.

EM: Why do you think it is so important to focus on women and racial minorities with Br{ache the Silence? And what are some of the unique challenges female athletes of color face?

NC: I think that one of the biggest misconceptions in women’s sports is that homophobia doesn’t exist and individuals who identify as LGBT are a welcome part of competition. The unfortunate truth is coaches and administrators remain closeted as retaliation, bullying and career sabotage serve as constant threats. For example, there are only two out lesbian coaches in NCAA Division I women’s basketball. Straight women also fall victim to anti-gay sentiment due to the misrepresentation of their perceived sexual orientation. The Black community is largely influenced by the black church, where being gay or lesbian is a sin. There is added pressure to fit in and when you can’t find your likeness in the black community or in a predominantly white LGBT movement, this can be isolating.

EM: Do you think your experiences playing basketball affected (or influenced) the founding of the Br{ache the Silence campaign?

NC: Yes, definitely, I graduated from college in 2003 and there wasn't much visibility around gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes, transgender was not even on the radar. I spent time away from college sports to find my peace and when I returned I realized much of the women’s sports community was still the same – homophobic. One of my favorite quotes reads, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” Colleen McCaffrey (Co-Founder of BTS) and I  realized we were in a unique position to use our  voices to support our coaching and athlete friends and create more visibility and awareness around these issues.

EM: What do you think it is about the collegiate sports experience, or the school sports experience in general, that can sometimes foster an environment of homophobia?

NC: It’s up to athletic administrators to raise the bar and facilitate LGBT inclusion programming within the department. Without the support of leadership you seldom find student-athletes able to take time away the demands of being a student-athlete to initiate this type of discussion. Many LGBT related issues aren’t addressed until someone is victimized and by taking a more proactive approach, colleges and universities could foster a healthier environment for everyone, not just the LGBT community. We hope to work with GLSEN to extend our reach into K-12 by placing some of our college athletes into local middle and high schools to start reaching student-athletes earlier in life.

EM: Your website states that your goal is to reach every institution, athletic department, and sports program in the country. What events is Br{ache the Silence currently initiating or planning to initiate in order to advance the mission of the organization?

NC: Well, our biggest initiative is something called Tour of Champions: Women’s College Sports. BTS Campaign will launch the tour in October 2013 to increase the visibility of Women’s NCAA Division I national champions who courageously use fame and notoriety to combat homophobia and bullying. Each national championship team will create a video and host an inclusion event highlighting what it means to be a champion and why LGBT inclusion is important. We will also travel to each university to facilitate  create a community outreach initiative. They  will also travel beyond the lines of competition and into the classrooms of local middle and high schools, serving as mentors and helping youth understand the consequences of bullying and the importance of LGBT inclusion.

EM: How can readers or general members of the sports world get involved with Br{ache the Silence?

NC: Well, the biggest thing the community can do is go to our website at freedomsounds.org to sign the BTS pledge and follow and share us on facebook. We also encourage coaches, administrators and student-athletes in the women’s sports community to bring inclusion programming to their colleges and universities and share their stories. We have our contact information on the website.

EM: There has been a lot of media attention recently on professional football, specifically the 49ers, and how they handle LGBT issues. Is there any event recently, inathletics, which affirms your mission to help make a more LGBT inclusive environment? Or conversely that shows that an LGBT inclusive environment has already started to form?

NC:  Pat Griffin, Hudson Taylor and I recently traveled to VCU to work with the athletic department and in speaking with the student-athletes, coaches and some of the administrators, you realize how much they need you. Just having them look me in the eye to say “thank you” was moving and makes me realize how blessed I am to be able to use my story as a vessel.  

EM: Where do you see Br{ache the silence in the future, 5 to 10 years, or farther? What do you hope its impact will be?

NC: I love women, obviously, and my hope is that in ten years the community won’t need us because inclusion and diversity are valued. Hopefully, Tour of Champions will be ongoing and the norm will be, "we won a championship let's do our inclusion video and go work with the youth". In 5 to 10 years we hope the athletes are the advocates and  teams are reaching out to the community because this is something they feel really passionate about doing. 

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