Former NFL player Wade Davis on coming out in sports
  • Wade Davis:I believe that it's okay to be gay and play sports or be a rapper or an actor. I just think we're moving in that direction. I can't say it's in the next five or ten years, but I definitely think it's on the horizon.
  • Amy K. Nelson:Does it have to be the quarterback [who comes out]? Can it be the reserved player at first?
  • Wade Davis:I'll be flat-out honest with you. It probably shouldn't if he wants to keep his job. If he wants to keep his job, if he's the 53rd man on the roster, if he's a free agent who's fighting for a job, maybe he shouldn't. I would hope that he would, I would hope that he feels that he can, but if you want me to be flat-foot honest with you, it probably shouldn't be, just because I don't want to tell someone to give up their lifelong dream of playing in the NFL to ... you know what, yes, it should be. You know, screw it. It should be. I don't want to be in the business of telling anyone they can't live their life authentically. I don't want to do that anymore. It's just not what I'm about anymore. So I want anyone, whether you're the first man or the 25th man or the last man or even someone on the practice squad, to come out and say, "You know what? I'm gay, I'm still a great athlete, and I'm an even better human being."

Wade Davis is an anthropologist, ethnobotanist and professor. He is also a well-traveled researcher, and was named Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. That means he goes around the world and is living and Indiana Jones-style life.

When he’s not being a BAMF, he retreats back to his study in D.C., which is pretty much the greatest den of all time.

If the fate of the world hangs in the balance, if a projected rise of sea levels promises to flood the Nile delta and inundate the homes of 120 million people in Bangladesh and India, if entire island nations in the Pacific are being washed away, and if the glaciers of the Andes and the Tibetan plateau, source of life for half of humanity, are melting, then why has not our response been in any way commensurate with the severity of the crisis? Why have we not fully mobilized and declared war on global warming?

“It may sound naive, but when you enter a cross-cultural situation, you are by definition an ambassador for your culture. Decency and pride dictate that we present ourselves well, with respect and integrity. Think of every such cultural encounter as a reciprocal obligation. If you make a promise to return to a village, to send a photograph, keep it. Always leave behind more than you bring away, give more than you take. Whether we travel as tourists, journalists, or academic anthropologists, it is our comparative wealth that allows us to be in these places, to have these life-affirming interactions. This is always a privilege but never a right. The goal of travel is to return transformed. And that’s the gift of engagement with another cultural reality.”
–Wade Davis

(an interview with the legendary Wade Davis is appearing in the next issue of get lost magazine)

Sports aren’t inherently homophobic; no one ever told me I couldn’t be gay and play sports. No one explicitly said that. But you equate being gay with being feminine or less than, and you equate playing sports with being masculine and being power and all these things. We want to change that narrative.
—  Wade Davis, executive director of You Can Play and former NFL cornerback (SI’s Extra Mustard, “‘Rodgers Reminds Us That Speculation Is Sport’: A Q&A with the Director of You Can Play”)
If diversity is a source of wonder, its opposite, the ubiquitous condensation to some blandly amorphous and singulary generic modern culture that takes for granted an impoverished environment, is a source of dismay. There is, indeed, a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, cultures, languages, ancient skills and visionary wisdom. Quelling this flame, and re-inventing the poetry of diversity is perhaps the most importent challenge of our times.
—  Wade Davis, The Wayfinders
Of all the peoples that I’ve ever been with, the most extraordinary are the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta–descendants of the ancient Tairona civilization which once carpeted the Caribbean coastal plain of Colombia. In the wake of the conquest, these people retreated into an isolated volcanic massif that soars above the coastal plain. In a bloodstained continent, these people alone were never conquered by the Spanish.

To this day, they remain ruled by a ritual priesthood, and the training for the priesthood is rather extraordinary. The young acolytes are taken away from their families at the age of three and four, sequestered in a shadowy world of darkness in stone huts at the base of glaciers for 18 years. Two nine-year periods deliberately chosen to mimic the nine months of gestation they spend in their natural mother’s womb, and now as they are metaphorically in the womb of the great mother. And for this entire time, they are inculturated into the values of their society, values that maintain the proposition that their prayers and their prayers alone maintain the cosmic–or we might say the ecological–balance.

At the end of this amazing initiation, one day they’re suddenly taken out and for the first time in their lives. At the age of 18, they see a sunrise. And in that crystal moment of awareness of first light as the Sun begins to bathe the slopes of the stunningly beautiful landscape, suddenly everything they have learned in the abstract is affirmed in stunning glory. And the priest steps back and says, ‘You see? It’s really as I’ve told you. It is that beautiful. It is yours to protect.’

They call themselves the elder brothers and they say we, who are the younger brothers, are the ones responsible for destroying the world.
—  Wade Davis, Endangered Cultures