A new chapter in sports history unfolds as the Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame unveils its first class of inductees tonight in Chicago.
Famed MLB umpire Dave Pallone will be honored with fellow inductees, which include out tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis (pictured), NBA’s Jason Collins, as well as straight athlete-activists Ben Cohen and Brendon Ayanbadejo.
“It is a tremendous honor and… I hope it gives young people and adults alike who happen to be LGBT and want to be in professional sports another example of why they should continue to strive for their dreams,” Pallone said to the Associated Press.
He will be in attendance tonight, with events that include an honorary dinner at a ceremony in the Center on Halsted and Saturday’s “Out at Wrigley”, at Wrigley Field, which is called the largest “Gay Day” at a major league sporting event.
Executive Director Bill Gubrud said the decision to establish the country’s first hall of fame honoring gay athletes and their supporters is due to changing attitudes about the community, particularly among young people.
“This will help preserve history,” Gubrud said. “You are not going to know where to go if you don’t know where you’ve been and many in the gay community don’t know Glenn Burke [the late outfielder for the Oakland Athletics and LA Dodgers in the 1970s].”
Gubrud also said Chicago was chosen to be hall of fame’s home for a number of reasons, starting with the city’s place as a major gay tourist destination and since it is a very LGBT-friendly city.
A physical site for the hall of fame has not been selected, but will remain at the Center on Halsted (Chicago’s LGBT Community Center) until it finds permanent location.