Football legend Ron Mix wants you to be his guest at the Super Bowl.
More specifically, the former Los Angeles Charger and Hall-of-Famer wants you to buy a ticket that will benefit two organizations: a transgender crisis support hotline and an LGBT organization headquartered in the Super Bowl LIII host city of Atlanta.
“When I saw the White House ban on transgender people serving in the military, it was just shocking—and it was so wrong,” said Mix, adding that he has also recently learned about “the horrific homelessness rate of gay and transgender youth.”
“This should really just shock the conscience of America,” Mix told The Daily Beast.
Mix has two tickets to the Super Bowl this Sunday. The winning bidder for the second ticket will get to attend the game with him. Dinner and a signed Ron Mix jersey are also included.
Mix, who is regarded one of the game’s top offensive linemen and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, reached out directly to Trans Lifeline, an emotional support hotline for transgender people, and to Georgia Equality, a state-wide LGBT rights organization based in Atlanta, to create the prize package. At first, he had to explain who he was.
“Ninety percent of today’s football fans wouldn’t have heard of me, either,” he joked. “So I had to give them background information.”
Suffice it to say, the LGBT groups were thrilled that a sports legend offered to fundraiser for them out of the blue.
“For both of our organizations, it is just so nice to have a donor that calls up like this—and all we needed to do was figure out the mechanism of selling it,” Georgia Equality director Jeff Graham told The Daily Beast.
“When allies work alongside trans people—to support their achievements and sit with them against shame and transphobia—we know we’re seeing progress being made, said Sam Ames, interim executive director of Trans Lifeline. “For supporting the work of organizations like Trans Lifeline and Georgia Equality, we are so thankful to our dedicated allies, and particularly to Ron Mix.”
As of this writing, the current bid on the package—which includes a signed jersey, dinner with Mix, and seats in Section 208 near the 20-yard-line—is $4,250, but Mix is hoping to see that number get a boost before the auction closes on Tuesday afternoon.
For Mix, who played on the Chargers from 1960 to 1969 and then briefly on the Oakland Raiders in 1971, LGBT issues hit close to home. He estimates that “approximately five percent of humans fall within the LGBT community”—and indeed, Gallup’s latest estimate of the percentage of American adults who identify as LGBT sits at 4.5 percent—which “means every family has members, including mine.”
(Citing “privacy matters,” Mix could not discuss his LGBT family members, but he maintained that one shouldn’t need to have an LGBT relative in order to support LGBT rights any more than one needs to live in a disaster area themselves to recognize the need for relief funds.)
Mix, who also served in in the 977th Reserve unit, added that he has had gay colleagues in both the military and in professional sports.
“I’ve had teammates who were gay, I had army comrades who were gay,” he told The Daily Beast, returning again to the subject of the transgender military ban: “It’s just ridiculous to take this position.”
Mix has been particularly impressed by retired four-star General Stanley McChrystal, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the transgender troop ban. He feels the same respect for the gay athletes he he played with that McChrystal does about today’s LGBT service members. For privacy reasons, Mix can only mention running back David Kopay, who left the NFL in 1972 and later came out as gay.
“Just as Gen. McChrystal found with those in the service from the gay community, I found the same thing,” said Mix. “Dave was everything you wanted in a teammate: tough, resilient, dedicated to doing what was best for the team.”
Asked about current levels of LGBT acceptance in the NFL today, Mix said, “It’s a process,” adding that “as time goes on, it’s possible more and more may openly declare themselves.” Except for Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player to be drafted to a team, no player has ever been out as LGBT while on a team’s roster.
Given how much fear of rejection has been ingrained into so many Americans from an early age, Mix told The Daily Beast, “it’s very bold—very, very bold—to come out.”
Although no player has yet followed in Michael Sam’s footsteps—and scrutiny continues to be paid to lingering homophobia in the NFL—there has been a rising tide of incremental pro-LGBT actions from the league, as Cyd Ziegler catalogued for Outsports.
This year, as Ziegler noted, that includes LGBT-themed events co-sponsored by the NFL to benefit Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights LGBTQ Institute.
Graham told The Daily Beast that the Super Bowl host committee has been vocal about focusing on Atlanta’s civil rights legacy, LGBT rights included.
“The LGBT community has been very explicitly welcomed to participate in this conversations and welcomed to be a part of the community dialogue,” he said. “As someone who has been doing this work for about 30 years here in Atlanta, that has not always been the case.”
Mix knows that his contribution may be relatively small—“I didn’t think I was that attractive a package,” he joked—but he hopes that it sends a big message.
Mix said, “I wanted the transgender youth and gay youth also to know that there are people out there who do care about them and do support them, so we’ve got to support the organizations that are out there to help them.”
And to anyone who would cite Bible verses to denounce LGBT people, Mix would recommend they review another Old Testament commandment before the Super Bowl.
“Rest on Sunday?” he said. “Goodbye pro football.”