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'A long way to go': Timber Rattlers and LGBTQ advocates work to advance inclusivity in local sports

Posted at 3:02 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 01:29:56-04

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (NBC 26) -- One night aimed to help change sports in Northeast Wisconsin.


"We've certainly been in sports, but you may not have ever seen or noticed us," Diverse & Resilient youth advocate Reiko Ramos said. "Athletic activities are frankly not a place that LGBTQ people have been always welcome; still aren't always welcome."

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers held Pride Night on Tuesday to advance inclusivity in sports. But advocates like Ramos say LGBTQ fans and players still need more support.

"Sports are gender segregated, so there really hasn't been an equitable playing field for LGBTQ athletes," Ramos said.

On Monday in the midst of Pride Month, active NFL player Carl Nassib made history by coming out as gay.

Raiders' player Carl Nassib comes out as gay in social media post

"It's always a big deal any time an athlete comes out, and it's kind of sad that that's the case," Ramos said.

That's why the second-ever Pride Night touches home for the Timber Rattlers.

"We actually had an openly-gay player on our team as well back in 2015, David Denson," team Entertainment Coordinator Jake Jirschele said.

According to a 2018 NCAA survey, nearly 20 percent of people in Division III athletics identified as LGBTQ.

"We hope that this impacts more minor league baseball teams and the surrounding teams in our areas, and hopefully around the nation as well," Jirschele said about the night's festivities.

While local events work to provide a safe sporting environment, Ramos says it's just one step.

"We have definitely made progress, but we do have a long way to go," Ramos said.

According to the team, the T-Rats partnered with the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber Of Commerce to welcome fans.