Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Bullock knows all too well the results of transphobia – his sister, a transwoman, was stabbed to death in 2014. He’s been a prominent advocate for the LGBTQ+ community for most of his professional life in the NBA since he was drafted in the first round of 2013. He has sported basketball shoes with LGBTQ printed across the top with the name of his sister, Mia Henderson written on the sole.
Recently, he’s displayed a more permanent memorial – a tattoo on his left calf reading “LGBTQ” and his sister’s name. Bullock has hosted a Pride night and continues to find other ways to be publicly supportive. According to the Daily Beast, Bullock has reached out directly to the NBA, hoping to make his dream of players wearing rainbow jerseys a reality in his lifetime. The NBA has had a spotty history when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion. Compete reported on the experience of Jason Collins, the first active NBA player to come out as gay in 2013.
Playing for the Washington Wizards at the time, Collins’ announcement of his sexual orientation wasn’t openly embraced by the NBA although he received a lot of support from individuals. He ended up playing briefly for the Nets and took his retirement soon after. While Collins might not have felt popular with the NBA at the time, his jersey became one of its bestsellers and the proceeds were donated to LGBTQ+ charities.
Bullock’s call for inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is critical. With increased visibility and media coverage of the trans community, violence against trans people has spiked. Although marriage equality became the law of the land in 2015, with 28 violent deaths in 2017, research showed that it was the deadliest year for the transgender community.
But it’s 2018. Last month the New Zealand Blacks of rugby fame donned rainbow logo jerseys as a statement against homophobia. It seems the NBA has been listening. On their social media accounts the NBA posted a video showing Bullock being honored at the GLAAD Media Awards on May 5 where his message was that “Inclusion is for everyone.”
Also an Athlete Ally ambassador for LGBTQ+ inclusion, at the March Transgender Day of Visibility Bullock and WNBA star Breanna Stewart spoke about the fact that “…everyone should have equal access, opportunity and experience in sport regardless of their gender identity” so all transgender athletes have an opportunity to reach their full potential in sports.
So can NBA rainbow jerseys become a reality in 2018? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out Reggie’s “Fly” video from GLAAD.
By Ty Nolan