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April 5, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

NFL players help 'Tackle Homophobia'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - "Tackling Homophobia: NFL Voices Inspiring Change" will be the discussion topic when former NFL player Esera Tuaolo, and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, lecture at Slippery Rock University April 15.

The 7:30 p.m. program is in the Smith Student Center Ballroom. Tickets, available from the SSC Help Desk, are free for SRU students and $5 for the general public.

TUAOLOSRU's University Program Board, the Women's Studies Program, the Office of Student Life, the SRU Women's Center, SRU Pride Center, the President's Commission of Gender Identities and Sexual Orientation, and the departments of philosophy, communication and political science are sponsoring the program.

The event is designed "to build awareness and inform the student body about LGBTQ issues as well as the importance of being true to oneself," said Matan Cohen, an SRU sport management major and UPB's vice president for speakers.

Information about legalizing same sex-marriage, creating a world of tolerance and changing the culture within professional and collegiate athletics will be part of the program.

Kluwe, the starting punter for the Minnesota Vikings, made headlines last September when he released a letter to Maryland State Assembly Delegate Emmett Burns in which he supported the right of a fellow NFL football player, Brendon Ayanbadeio, to publicly support same-sex marriage. Since then, Kluwe has made his support on this issue more public, campaigning for Minnesotans for Equality to defeat a ban on same-sex marriage.

KLUWEHe has published several letters articulating his position and has completed numerous interviews voicing his support as an LBGT ally.

The Seattle Seahawks originally signed Kluwe in 2005. He played his college football at UCLA.

He has been publically active in same-sex marriage issues since 2012. He also participated in the documentary "The Last Barrier," offering his feelings toward equality. In appearing on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," he was the first inductee into the talk-show-comedian's "Hall of Fame" for his support of marriage equality.

In February, he and Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Ayanbadejo, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Hollingsworth vs. Perry, supporting the challenge to California Proposition 8, which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The case is currently pending before the high court with a ruling expected this summer.

Tuaolo, a nine-season defensive lineman in the NFL, hid his sexuality as a gay man in the masculine culture of professional football.

After retiring, he announced his sexual orientation on HBO's "Real Sports."

He had originally played football at Oregon State University and was drafted into the NFL in 1991, where he was known as "Mr. Aloha," a reference to being born in Hawaii.

He played nose tackle for several NFL teams, including the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers and the Vikings, and played for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1999 Super Bowl.

He has said keeping the secret damaged him, leading him to abuse alcohol and contemplate suicide.

Tuaolo is one of only three former NFL players to publicly announce their gender orientation. He described the change as "taking off a costume I've been wearing all my life."

Tuaolo has received support from former teammates, the media, friends and family. He brings his story to the podium to inspire others to achieve their best by speaking to their individual truths without fear or intimidation.

His autobiography is titled "Alone In The Trenches: My Life As A Gay Man In The NFL."

During the program at SRU, the football players will outline their personal experiences in the NFL and the community in relation to LGBT rights and issues.

Those attending will have the chance to take photos with the speakers.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.