Brian Sims talks Culliver, football, politics
February, 8, 2013
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com
Brian SimsBrian Sims played four years for Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and now is a politician.Now that the Super Bowl is over, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver will begin his sensitivity training and education following his anti-gay remarks last week.
Culliver will work with The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis and suicide intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, his spokesman Theodore Palmer said.
Brian Sims, the only college football captain to ever come out as gay, said he was happy there was so much backlash against Culliver's remarks during the lead-up to the Super Bowl.
"Everyone should be allowed to speak their mind, but in this case, it was wholly ignorant and wholly stupid," said Sims, who was elected as the state representative for the 182nd District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. "This is not acceptable in the workplace and shouldn't be acceptable in sports."
Sims, who was a 6-foot, 250-pound lineman for Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania for four years, has spent the past few years speaking to colleges about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and civil rights, especially to athletes.
"I probably have spoken to more people in colleges, from Joe Paterno all the way down to freshman football players, on this subject," said the 34-year-old Sims, who graduated from the Michigan State University College of Law in 2004. "I think it's important to educate and inform."
Playbook had a few minutes with Sims to talk about the Culliver incident, his rise in football and politics.
What was your first reaction to the Culliver quotes?
"I had two reactions. The first was to laugh. I remember that Charles Barkley had this great line where he said any time someone talks about not wanting a gay teammate hasn't been looking. There are gay guys in every locker room. That's the idiocy of what Culliver said. I also thought it wasn't fair to his teammates to imply that what he was thinking was the norm. That has not been my experience."
Were you always into football?
"Yes and no. How's that for a lawyer's answer? In many places growing up, football wasn't an option. I spent years of my childhood in Alaska where we didn't play football. I moved to Northern Virginia, and my junior high school didn't have football. My family then moved to Pennsylvania. I was this eighth grade fat kid. But in Pennsylvania, you're playing football whether you want to or not. I have this really athletic twin brother, and we both played. I was a lineman. I was more a 'Star Trek' and academic nerd than into sports. But I was always looking for ways to build relationships since I was an Army brat. Honestly, it had taken a year or two to just learn the rules."
But you had a scholarship to play college football, so that meant you must have had some skills.
"I had spent my entire life wanting to play for Cornell or Columbia. When national signing day came and went, I sat down with my parents and we talked about where I was going to school. Being in the Army, my parents couldn't afford to send me to an Ivy League school. They said they would pay for a state school. I had been going to Bloomsburg for football camps, so I went there as a defensive lineman."
How good were you?
Courtesy of Brian SimsBrian Sims played defensive lineman for Bloomsburg.
"I played all four years. I was even a regional All-American and probably the smallest lineman in the country. I still have a bench press record that stands in Pennsylvania. I knew I had the numbers to play at a high level, but I didn't have the height or weight to go on. I started taking my LSATs and working at 7-Eleven. I knew my whole life that I wanted to be an attorney. I could have fallen back on the World League or Canadian Football League, but I was focused on law."
The story goes that you came out to your college football team. Is that true?
The truth is I was gay my whole life. I had dated girls in high school. I think I knew I wasn't straight long before I knew I was gay. I knew by the time I got to college that I was gay. My team actually came to me to ask me whether I was gay. They wanted to talk about it. They asked me about the struggle and when I was going to tell people. I didn't go through the same struggles as people today. Today, you have 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds so confident and secure in their sexuality. I was not. I wasn't a gay 17-year-old ready to come out to the world. When I got to college, I realized I was gay. I just didn't know how to go about it. My college didn't have a LGBT group to give me the language to come out. It was my quarterback who asked me first."
Why did you get into politics?
"I have spent my entire life being an advocate. As I got older and in the professional world, I realized that's what it was called. Before that, I was just a person always standing up for someone else. I had this innate sense of justice. I came from parents who were very attuned to standing up for their beliefs. I got into a legal career to advocate LGBT rights, civil rights and women's rights. I never planned on getting into politics, but I was frustrated by the sitting legislature. I stepped in because I thought I could do a better job."
Do you hope for the day when the topic of sexuality isn't discussed?
"I do hope there is a time when you don't have to discuss it but still want to discuss it. I live in a neighborhood in Philadelphia called 'Gayborhood.' It's next to Chinatown and the Italian area of town. I don't want to speak on behalf of all Italians, but they've been discriminated before but they still love their culture, heritage and solidarity. I want us to reach a time when race and sexuality isn't a negative factor. Sports teams need some badass gay men and women's teams need lesbians to come out. It's going to be a good thing."