According to a press release from AthleteAlly.com, Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried will become the first NBA player to promote the organization's "mission to end homophobia in sports by speaking out to his team, league and fan base."
Despite having less than two years of NBA service under his belt, Faried has already established his reputation as a player unafraid of hard work. And based on the significance of his latest philanthropic undertaking, it's clear that he's just as fearless and committed off the court.
It feels odd to call what Faried is doing "brave," but based on the level of tolerance (or lack thereof) for homosexuality in professional sports, his public support of an organization like Athlete Ally is, at the very least, pioneering.
As the NBA begins to embrace a more open-minded outlook, complete with Kobe Bryant and Grant Hill making admirable public statements, the league will need a guy like Faried to push the forward momentum.
And he's just the man to do it.
Faried comes from a household uniquely familiar with the plight of the LGBT community. He said in the release:
I have two moms, and I love them both very much. I respect, honor and support them in every way. The bond I have with them has made me realize that I want all members of the LGBT community—whether they are parents, players, coaches or fans—to feel welcome in the NBA and in all of our communities.
Obviously, Faried's work won't suddenly change the perspectives of all of his NBA contemporaries, but by being the first professional basketball player to even make a formal effort to do so, he's certainly deserving of recognition.
For the four-year college player who has made a career out of doing the unappreciated, that recognition is going to feel a little odd.
Passed over through the first 21 picks of the 2011 NBA draft despite being the NCAA's all-time leading rebounder, Faried was thought to be "undersized both in height and weight to play the 4 position at the NBA level," according to NBADraft.net.
All he's done since entering the league is dominate the boards and inspire his teammates with his endless supply of energy. Faried presently ranks 11th in the NBA in rebounds per game, despite playing just 29.4 minutes per contest. And his tenacity leaves his teammates constantly amazed.
According to Dave D'Alessandro of NJ.com, Ty Lawson said the following of Faried's constant effort:
He’s the same in practice—it’s all out all the time, and the motor just doesn’t stop. And you need that as a team. The NBA season is long; sometimes you get tired and you really want to take a few plays off. But then Manimal gets everybody started.
Overcoming the intolerance of homosexuals is probably the most significant civil-rights fight today, and Faried will need to bring his tireless work ethic to bear on his newest challenge.
It’s not really a big deal to be the first. I just wanted to show that I really do care about people’s rights. My mom is a lesbian and was married in a civil union, and I want to support others who deserve that right.
It'll be an uphill battle, but Faried has faced difficult odds all his life. Coming up in a rough New Jersey neighborhood didn't stop him from achieving his goals, and he wasn't deterred when the big-name colleges ignored him.
Even when his sterling college career resulted in a disappointing draft day, Faried never quit working. In fact, he just worked harder.
For this fierce yet humble competitor, big undertakings and long odds are nothing new. Always one to stay true to himself and inspire others with his hard work, it's clear that Athlete Ally (and the Nuggets) have the perfect Manimal for the job.
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