Thanks to Fan, 12, Red Sox to Join Cubs’, Giants’ ’It Gets Better’ Campaign

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday June 6, 2011

The Boston Red Sox will join the Giants and the Cubs in making a video message aimed at youths -- particularly GLBT youths who suffer anti-gay bullying and harassment -- telling them that "It Gets Better."

A June 4 press release from petition site recounted how a youth from Nashua, New Hampshire, initiated an effort to get the Sox to join in. Sam Maden, 12, started the online petition after a schoolteacher suggested that he think up a way to "make a difference." Maden's idea also serves to honor his uncle Chris, who recently died.

Maden's petition was signed by over 9,000 people, the release said.

"I figured since the Boston Red Sox are my favorite team, I really wanted them to do it and I thought it would just help," the young fan told Boston News Channel WCVB-TV.

"It's a [point of] pride, but it's not a surprise," the boy's father, Barry Maden, said of how the Sox agreed to make the video. "Sam moves through the world expecting the best out of those around him."

"The Red Sox are his heroes and they've proven that over and over for him now. He's a fan for life for sure," Tara Maden, Sam's mother, said.

"We are proud of dedicated Red Sox fans like 12-year-old Sam Maden who have taken the courageous step of publicly standing up against bullying of LGBT youth," said Senior Vice President/Public Affairs and Marketing for the Red Sox Susan Goodenow, the release said.

"The Red Sox have frequently done PSA videos, or public service announcement videos, on important social issues. We are currently producing an 'It Gets Better' video to support the It Gets Better campaign to stop bullying of LGBT youth and teen suicides.

"We hope that when it is released it will both reflect our continued commitment to be active participants in the community and help advance the efforts of Sam and others to stop bullying," continued Goodenow. "Our team stands for respect and inclusion -- there is no place for discrimination or acts of hatred in Red Sox Nation."

"Sam decided to merge his love for the Red Sox with a cause his uncle believed in passionately: ending the bullying of gay kids and kids perceived to be gay," the release said. "Inspired by news that the San Francisco Giants had responded to a fan's petition on by announcing they would become the first pro sports team to create an 'It Gets Better' anti-bullying video, Sam decided to ask his favorite team -- the Red Sox -- to make a video as well.

"When I found out about my uncle's passing, I didn't know what to do," said the youth, who, the release noted, plays on three baseball teams. "This is something I can do to honor him. Uncle Chris knew how much I love the Red Sox and I think he would have been thrilled with the team making an 'It Gets Better' video to support kids."

A groundswell of popular support for athletics to stand up against bullying seems to be in progress, the release noted.

"In addition to Sam Maden's petition, more than 30 sports fans from around the country have launched petitions on the platform urging their favorite sports teams to produce videos as well," the release said. "The Giants responded with the first 'It Gets Better' video in pro sports after lifelong fan Sean Chapin started a petition on supported by more than 6,000 fans and four mayoral candidates.

"On Friday, the Chicago Cubs announced they would become the second team to join the 'It Gets Better' project after Cubs fan Joe Hinton launched a petition on," added the release.

Though the Red Sox and the New York Yankees are famous rivals on the diamond, the two teams may eventually become allies in the fight against homophobic bullying: A petition to convince the Yankees to make a video of their own is already underway.

Another petition seeking to convince the New York Mets to pitch in on the "It Gets Better" video movement -- which has already spawned over 10,000 videos -- is also online at the petition site.

Although the sports world has long been seen as homophobic, recent signs that this is changing rapidly have emerged. Though no active major sports figures have as yet come out of the closet, Rick Welts, CEO of the basketball team the Phoenix Suns, disclosed last month that he is gay, prompting a show of support from the team's point guard, Steve Nash.

ESPN sports announcer Jared Max announced to his listeners that he was gay in a May 19 broadcast, prefacing his disclosure with the words, "Are we ready to have our sports information delivered by someone who's gay? Well you know what, we are gonna find out."

Straight athletes have also begun to come forward individually to offer support for gays and their families, as New Rangers hockey star Sean Avery did last month when he became the first pro athlete to join in on the Human Rights Campaign-produced "New Yorkers for Marriage Equality" video series.

British rugby star Ben Cohen recently established a foundation to combat bullying and homophobia in sports, the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.