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COMMENTARY: The Athletic Supporter ponders a pro-athlete's support

Editor's Note: Roman Jimenez, a San Diego Gay & Lesbian News sports columnist who calls his bi-weekly rants about local and other related sports "The Athletic Supporter," took a tad more liberty with his pen this week, deciding to share with us his thoughts on a surprising new supporter of the LGBT community.

Popular former San Diego Chargers cornerback, Antonio Cromartie now with the New York Jets, has officially joined the NOH8 Campaign, making him the first bonafide star from a major sports franchise to come out in support of the campaign to support same-sex marriage.

NOH8 is a photographic silent protest created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley, in direct response to the passage of California’s Proposition 8, an amendment to the state’s constitution which stated "Only a marriage between a man and woman will be valid or recognized in the State of California."

The NOH8 photos feature subjects with "NOH8" painted on one cheek and duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop. 8 and similar legislation around the world.

Since launching the project two years ago, Adam and Jeff have added over 7,700 unique photos to their campaign's website, consisting of both celebrities and every-day people in support of the cause.

"This gesture by Cromartie is incredible and ground breaking," posted J. Pete Olsen, author of the gay sports blog Wide Rights. "I hope more athletes follow Cromartie’s lead and continue to vocalize their support," Olsen continued. "Without the explicit action, we do not know how much support we really have."

Cromartie isn’t the only "ally" LGBT fans have in the National Football League, but he is perhaps the most unexpected.

Super Bowl quarterback Drew Brees (another former Charger) recently went on the Ellen DeGeneres TV show to give an anti-bullying message in response to the recent spate of tragic suicides by LGBT youth. But Brees’ history of civic involvement and philanthropy is well documented. Moreover, as a personal friend to DeGeneres, it’s not at all surprising he would voice support for an issue close to her heart.

While a teammate of Brees’ on the New Orleans Saints, hard-hitting linebacker Scott Fujita also showed support with a February 2010 interview to interview with The Advocate about how and why he supports same-sex marriage, and always has.

Fujita first made a statement when backing Baltimore linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo, who wrote an April 2009 article for The Huffington Post titled, "Same Sex Marriages: What’s the Big Deal?" making the Ravens Pro-Bowler the first active NFL player to publicly support same-sex marriage.

That Fujita supported same-sex marriage isn’t a tremendous surprise. He was adopted as a baby by a Japanese father (hence the name) and an American mother. The family resided in Southern California before the football-playing Fujita became a walk-on at UC Berkley, a school well known to lean left in its political bend. Moreover, he was named "Man of the Year" by his teammates in 2009, for his many charitable endeavors in and around the City of New Orleans.

But Cromartie?

This is the same guy who the Chargers wrote off as a problem child.

Though immensely talented and full of potential (Cromartie holds a record for longest play in NFL history, 109 yards, when he returned a failed Minnesota field goal for a touchdown), the cornerback made the local news more often for his antics off the field.

Cromartie has fathered at least seven children from six different women in five different states, though don’t ask him to name them (search for that on You Tube).

The star was also reportedly toxic in the locker room, which may explain why he was basically run out of town on a rail by Chargers management - and traded to the Jets for essentially a bag of balls.

But now in his role as a New York Jet, with all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis covering the other half of the field, to say Cromartie has been "effective" in 2010 would be like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground. The guy’s been more "lights out" than a brown-out.

And though there are some who will characterize Cromartie’s bold statement of support for the LGBT community as one coming from the wrong messenger, I say we can’t afford to be choosey about our allies.

So, personally, I’d like to thank Antonio Cromartie for his courageous support of a cause I didn’t even know he supported. I want to thank him for being brave enough to stand up for something some of his fellow teammates may well disagree with.

Cromartie might have some personal failings, but bravery surely isn’t one of them.

Roman Jimenez is the sports columnist for SDGLN. He is an award-winning journalist who spent most of his career covering crime and politics. After burning out, he became a media consultant for high profile science and technology companies as the founder of The Media Prose. Belying his massive frame, Roman's skills as an athlete are well known, playing tennis and softball regularly with all the quickness and agility of a pregnant rhinoceros. As a result, Roman has covered sports in our community for various outlets off and on for 10 years.