In my Sports Law class at Farmingdale State College we just spent a few days talking about discrimination (gender, age, disability, etc.) One of the overriding policy points that came up in the cases and in our discussion dealt with “access to opportunity.” That is what the laws such as the ADA are trying to promote. Not a perfect life. And not necessarily success in every endeavor. That is not guaranteed for anyone, whether part of a “protected class” or not. However, what should be guaranteed is the chance to decide whether one wants to pursue that opportunity and not have it denied due to some random differences we are born with or ones resulting from accidents or just bad luck.
Thankfully, laws have been enacted to help combat that denial of access. But laws are not enough since we all know that not everyone follows the law, at least not to the degree intended. We have always needed more to change stereotypes and misperceptions. We need evidence (aka, great performances, plays). And thankfully, we are constantly building up that body of evidence.
History is filled with examples of those from different races, ethnicities, religions, gender, ages, etc. who have amazed the world and local communities with their skill and determination. (Jesse Owens, Jackie Robison, Bill Jean King, Billy Mills, etc.) Like everyone else, they have challenged themselves and each other, sought the joy that comes with participating in sports. Our amazement is but a by-product of their simple desire to compete. They also help wipe away over time those stereotypes and misperceptions about ability and desire. Without their access to such opportunities, we all suffer.
Another story to add to that anthology of amazement involves Team 4HIVHope. In 2011, Team 4HIVHope completed the Race Across America, a 3,000 mile / 5,000 km race from Oceanside, Calif. to Annapolis, Md. in six days, six hours and 34 minutes. Three of those four team members are living with HIV. It was the first time HIV-positive cyclists participated openly in Race Across America. On June 16, 2012, Team 4HIVHope will once again compete in the Race.
We heard from Carol Hyman at Team 4 HIV Hope who told us that the team competes in the Race Across America to:
• confirm that with the treatment, HIV need not be a barrier to very tough endurance sports (or anything else for that matter);
• reduce stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV;
• seek increased access to HIV medications for everyone in the world living with HIV.
In 2012, racer Patrick Autissier, who is an HIV scientist and researcher, will be conducting scientific experiments during RAAM in hopes of discovering effects of endurance athletics on both HIV+ and negative individuals and comparing the two.
This year the team is raising funds for the AIDS Policy Project, an organization actively seeking a cure for HIV/AIDS.The team has a presence on Twitter and Facebook. You can follow the team at: www.twitter.com/team4hivhope
We wish the team the best of luck in 2012 and beyond for their success will be our success as well.