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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Dear Readers,

I’m stumped, again by Trump.

Don’t we have free speech in the United States?

Should athletes who kneel to protest violence be threatened with being fired or suspended as the chief occupant of the White House has urged?

I never knew that standing in unity with locked arms was heresy.

But wait. Let me draw from own life experience.

When I was in middle school many years ago, I had signed up for the basketball team. The roster was posted on the window of the main office. As I walked down the hall, I heard my classmates say, “Don’t let the faggot play.” They continued even when they saw the disbelief and hurt in my face.

One brave classmate, a very good athlete, protested when his fellow players jeered and even spat at me when the coach called me into my one and only game. I quit the team, believing that was the better choice rather than endure that experience again.

Except I did. It happened on my high school tennis team and the coach stood in silence.

Fortunately, it never happened on my college tennis team. I believe I know why: years later, five of us had a reunion and discovered we were all gay, something we never admitted in college!

Soon after my college tennis team reunion, I was asked to coach a men’s team for a United States Tennis Association 4.5 league. A few players quit.  I was actually advised by some well-meaning fellow coaches to promise the guys that I would never go into a locker room, never talk about any guy I was dating even if the rest of the team talked about their wives and girlfriends, and never mention that I was gay.

I was lucky. The other guys on the team stood by me. We played our matches. Two guys who quit rejoined the team. The sky did not fall.

Quitting is not the answer. Standing in unity, building community, and respecting differences are ways that offer more hope.