When Phoenix Suns players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley recently created a 30-second public service announcement advising kids to avoid saying 'That's so gay,' the response on Twitter was, at times, abusive.
"Grant Hill became the trending topic on Twitter for all the wrong reasons; it's exactly the reason why professional athletes don't come out," said Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network executive director Eliza Byard.
Despite signs that attitudes are changing -- the public is increasingly becoming more accepting of gay marriage, for example -- gay students still encounter harassment and bullying.
A GLSEN study surveying more than 7,000 students who identify as LGBT found that during the 2008 school year, a little less than 19 percent reported they were physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation.
Wade Davis, a former defensive back for the Redskins, said in a recent YouTube video that when he was trying out for the Tennessee Titans, he was told by another player not to associate with someone on the team who was thought to be gay.
He complied, with the understanding that he should "steer clear of any controversial subjects." Davis, who is gay, said that moment caused him to go "further and further back into the closet." But thinking back, he said, "that was the last thing I should have done."
The video was posted as part of GLSEN's "Changing the Game" project aimed at helping K-12 schools create positive athletic environments for all students.
Davis' message to LGBT youth: "... you can still be who you are and be a great athlete and a strong male or female and also be gay, lesbian, transgender."
Now that two NBA stars recently shouted gay slurs, that message is even more relevant.
Gay Slurs Embarrass NBA
The NBA fined the Lakers' Kobe Bryant $100,000 in April for yelling a gay slur at referee Bennie Adams and the Bulls' Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 for using the same language to lash out at a fan.
NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement, "Insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."
GLSEN's Byard said, "Clearly both of these instances were teachable moments. The NBA sent a clear response that this language is not OK and that's critical."
After Bryant's incident, the Lakers released a public service announcement after partnering with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios said, "The Bulls should take action like the Lakers but more so, the league … is best served by addressing the issue across all teams."
The NBA, Barrios said, this year has "expressed interest as a league in tackling the problem of homophobia among players and fans, creating a hate-free zone at games."
Bryant's fine amounts to 0.4 percent of his $24.8 million salary, and Noah's fine is 1.5 percent of his salary. Regardless, GLSEN spokesman Daryl Presgraves said, "The NBA deserves a lot of credit for handing down a significant fine."
"To my knowledge, for a major male sports league, this set a precedent," he added.
But the slurs aren't necessarily indicative that a player dislikes gay people, Max of ESPN Radio said. "That kind of language especially, guys are marinated in it from the time these guys start playing basketball.
"It's just the word everyone they know uses," he said. "What happened here is these guys got caught on camera."
Buzinski said the slurs, and the outpouring of support, co-exist because "the culture is changing. It's not considered cool to be homophobic.
"Things are definitely changing but it still can be a slog. Change doesn't happen overnight."