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Gay former NFL player to visit Wooster

Wade Davis, a retired defensive back, will speak at McGaw Chapel about his experience in the pros

Wade Davis, a former NFL player who came out following his retirement, will speak at the College on Feb. 4 about his experiences as a gay athlete. The event is hosted by the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement and the Department of Physical Education. Davis played for the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins during his pro football career.

Davis is currently an assistant director of job readiness at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City, where he mentors youth on overcoming various struggles, such as dealing with bullying or becoming comfortable with themselves. He also serves as an LGBTQ spokesperson, and has spoken at events on behalf of President Obama. In addition, he serves on the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Sports Advisory Board, whose goal is to encourage children to respect and accept all people regardless of sexual orientation.

The event is an extension of the Global Queerness Conference that was held at the College in October, serving as an attempt to continue the conversations that happened in the Athletics forum panel. “There are so few opportunities for people, whether they be gay or straight, in athletics to really discuss sexuality in athletics,” CDGE Director Nancy Grace said. “We’re very homophobic about athletics in this country, and athletics ground American culture.”

“It’s only very recently that we have had pro athletes come out while they were active in the sport, but it is an issue that is ever present in athletics,” Grace said, citing the coming out of boxer Orlando Cruz, as a stepping stone. However, she noted that boxing has lost much of its former cultural impact.

“I wanted to continue this conversation, and so I reached out to our athletics department and asked if they would be interested in bringing in Davis. We have been collaborating on this ever since,” Grace said. Davis has stated in interviews his desire to use his story as a way to create change in the lives of others. He became an ideal way for the discussion about gay and lesbian athletes to continue at Wooster.

Grace hopes that the Davis talk is followed by another athlete speaker, who will additionally lead workshops for both coaches and athletes, as well as students. Her wish is to bring in Pat Griffin, who has led seminars on gay and lesbian issues in athletics at numerous colleges and universities as well as with coaches and athletic administrators across both the United States and Canada.

Grace also wants the event to be well attended by members of the Wooster athletic community. The LGBT panel held during the Queer Conference attracted a sizable crowd, though it lacked a strong athletic presence. By making Davis’s visit a two day event, with both the talk and the informal meeting, the idea is that more student athletes will interact and take part in the conversations.

He will speak at 7 p.m. in McGaw Chapel, and will meet with students informally the next day in the Scot Center at 11 a.m.


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