A leading defender of the New Giants employing David Tyree, a former football player with an anti-gay history, has a partnership with the football team and has had a relationship with the National Football League (NFL) for more than a year.
Wade Davis, the executive director at the You Can Play Project, an advocacy group working for equality for LGBT athletes in sports, was the first gay figure to speak up for Tyree. After the Giants last month recruited Tyree to head its player development unit, Davis defended the hire in a July 24 Sports Illustrated editorial.
In a video that also defended the Giants, Cyd Zeigler, a co-founder of Outsports.com, the leading LGBT sports publication, said that Steve Tisch, the chairman and executive vice president of the team, “has an incredible partnership with the You Can Play Project.”
In an interview with Gay City News, Zeigler had sufficient knowledge of Davis’ partnership with the Giants to say that it pre-dated the Tyree controversy and that an announcement about the partnership had been postponed due to concerns that it would be perceived as coming in response to the controversy.
“There was already some stuff in the works,” Zeigler said.
You Can Play did not respond to a call and an email sent to its publicist asking about the partnership.
A February 17 article in the Washington Post reported that Davis “has met with NFL representatives at the league’s New York office, preparing for a player to announce he is gay” for “the past year.” That announcement came earlier in February when Michael Sam announced he was gay and entered the NFL draft. Davis also assisted the NFL in responding to Sam’s coming out, the Post reported.
In the LGBT community, Tyree is best known for his affiliation with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-same-sex marriage group, and comments he made in 2011 opposing the drive to enact same-sex marriage in New York. In 2011, he appeared with Maggie Gallagher, then NOM’s head, and other anti-same-sex marriage figures at an Albany press conference.
At that press conference, Tyree referred to “traditional marriage” as “truly the backbone of our civilization,” echoing statements he made in a NOM video released shortly before the Albany event, where he warned that enacting the marriage equality bill “will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, and it’s a strong word, but anarchy.”
Press statements from conservative groups also placed him at a 2011 anti-same-sex marriage rally held at New York’s City Hall. Gay City News was at the City Hall event and did not see him there. He is not in any photos from that event. If Tyree was there, he did not speak.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT lobbying group, and Michelangelo Signorile, the SiriusXM radio host, condemned the July 22 hire and it received attention in the mainstream press.
In a statement, the Giants said, “David was expressing his personal view, and that is not the view of the Giants organization. The Giants believe, advocate, and practice diversity in the workplace, and our only focus is on the individual’s ability to perform his or her job.”
Zeigler, the other leading Giants defender, had nothing in his relationship with the franchise that could be called “payola,” he said. In 2007, the Giants sent an out lesbian staffer to a Gay Super Bowl event and in 2008 the team allowed a gay flag football team that Zeigler belonged to, the New York Warriors, to visit its Albany training camp and play on the field.
“I’ve never gotten any tickets to the Giants,” Zeigler told Gay City News. He said the Giants are “one of the most gay-positive franchises in the entire NFL, if not the most,” in his video.
“We can tar and feather this guy and try to destroy his career, but that’s not going to happen,” Zeigler said. “The other option is we can talk to him and listen to him.
The You Can Play-Giants partnership is yet another example of LGBT groups embracing relationships with corporations because it serves their mission, but also for the money, political clout, and visibility they bring. Some in the community look on these entanglements with dismay or anger as they see groups compromising LGBT interests and ignoring serious wrongdoing by the companies they link to.
“You want to talk about David Tyree’s politics?” said William Dobbs, an attorney and longtime gay activist. “What about the politics of endorsing a game that has people bashing their heads together?”
The NFL recently settled a federal lawsuit with more than 4,500 former players who accused the league of ignoring the long-term health consequences of concussions among players.
“These corporate alliances have completely corrupted and defanged the movement,” Dobbs said. “The movement is now a lap dog for corporate America.”