The Portland Trail Blazers are taking their nickname very literally these days. They just became the first team in the “Big Four”— MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL—to endorse marriage rights for same-sex couples.
In the early 2000s, the team used to be the known as the “Jail Blazers” thanks largely to their players’ penchant for off-the-court criminal behavior. Ruben Patterson, for example, was arrested for domestic abuse and Rasheed Wallace was cited for marijuana possession.
Now they’re the Gay Blazers. The team announced their support of Oregon’s Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection ballot initiative in a very succinct press release.
If one were cynical (and one is), this move could be seen as a hollow public relations pitch to ingratiate a formerly disgraced franchise to one of the most liberal fan bases in the United States. It’s not dissimilar from the phenomenon of NFL teams bathing themselves in pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. No matter how much pink he’s wearing, it’s hard to imagine RG3 feeling that strongly about the health of women’s breasts.
But beyond that cynicism, there’s something deeply bizarre about this announcement. What if IBM came out in favor of Obamacare? Or Pfizer announced their support of gun control? There is a reason why corporations (and pro sports franchises are nothing if not corporations) don’t take political stands—it could affect their bottom line. But if big business did start taking public positions like the Trail Blazers’ support of gay marriage, would that move the needle forward on these issues?
I’m going to drop the cynicism for a moment, and admit that, yes – this is ultimately a positive baby step forward the marriage equality movement. If only Burger King would come out in favor of a movement that would definitely help its bottom line – marijuana legalization.
Ryan Nerz is the host of "The Cannabusiness Report" and the author of two books about American subcultures: "Eat This Book" (competitive eating) and "MARIJUANAMERICA" (weed culture). He lives in Miami.