Q&A: Meet Jerome Hunt, the PhD Student Who’s Urging the Phillies to Make an ‘It Gets Better’ Video
Jerome Hunt, a 29-year-old PhD candidate at Howard University and lifelong Phillies fan thinks his favorite sports franchise should be a force for good – more than they already are. That’s why, after he saw the Red Sox, Cubs and Giants had made ‘It Gets Better’ videos (and the Mariners, Twins and Nationals announcing they’d do so, too), he decided to start a petition on Change.org for the Phillies to get involved, as we detailed yesterday on PhillyNow.
On his petition, Hunt, who also conducts research for the Center for American Progress in DC (he moved south to attend Howard), writes, “An estimated 61 percent of students have felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, while 39 percent have felt unsafe because of their gender expression, according to the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. No one should feel unsafe at school. Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.”
He’s not sure if he’s gotten the Phillies’ attention yet, nor if he’ll reach his overall petition goal, but he’s well on his way, having reached over 1,800 signatures as of this morning. (Check out and sign the petition here.) We caught up with Hunt this morning to speak with him about the project.
What gave you the idea for this petition in the first place?
I do research on LGBT issues for the Center for American Progress, so I was already aware of the bullying issue. I believe one day I had seen in my little news feed that a fan in Boston had petitioned the Red Sox to do a video and that kind of put it in my mind. The next week I saw someone had tried to get the Mariners to do it so I decided to check and see if anyone had petitioned the Phillies, and no one had. So I decided to just go ahead and do it.
What about those MLB ‘It Gets Better’ videos stuck with you?
I thought they were very well done, and they [the Cubs and Giants] were the first two clubs to take on the issue and set the standard for how it should be done. They got the issue out there and showed that it’s OK for other teams to get involved in this sort of advocacy.
What’s the reception been like, so far, to your petition?
When I first started it, I contacted some news stations via Twitter and contacted a reporter with the Inquirer who wrote an article about [the attic] that provides a safe space for lgbt youth in Philadelphia. I showed him the petition. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from any of the sources that I sent any of the stuff out to. So, I basically relied on family and friends to spread the word. And Change.org helped out with their emails. I got, probably, 25 signatures at first and once Change.org got involved and sent around their email list, it started increasing rapidly. I have over 1,800 signatures now. So, the response has been overwhelming.
And what’s your numerical goal?
I registered the goal at 100,000. I think that can definitely be achieved but right now I’m just trying to get as many signatures as possible to let the Phillies know this is an issue that matters and this is an issue they should definitely take on.
After the incident involving DeSean Jackson, is there a part of you that believes there’s even more reason for athletes to get involved with this?
Yes, I definitely do believe so. There’s a whole thing in society where we look up to entertainers and athletes. Unfortunately, they’re placed in tough positions, but they should realize they hold a high place in society and what they say does matter, whether they think they’re joking or not. It has an impact on someone. It definitely needs to be a reality that they’re more conscientious of what they say and how they say it.
Why do you think so many pro athletes have been getting caught making these sorts of slurs as of late?
I wish I could say I knew why it’s happening. I mean, the only thing I can think of is that it has to do with some form of…when someone comes at you or says something about you, you try to think of the most derogatory, or, you know, most eye-popping thing you can say to get a reaction out of them. So I think that’s why it’s happening, knowing that, you know, it’s probably going to draw some attention and it’s going to get their point across, but in the wrong way.
Looking into the future, and I don’t want to assume anything, but what’s it going to be like if you see the Phillies make one of these?
For me, personally, it would be great because growing up and being bullied myself and being called “gay” and “fag,” and a lot of harsh things were said to me, it would have been a nice consolation for me and a sense of comfort if I had a team that I idolized to take a stand on those things and make me know it’s OK being who you are. So for the Phillies to say those things and do that, it would be a big step. Because you don’t know how many LGBT youth there are out there in Philadelphia who just feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because no one’s accepting them for who they are. And if pro athletes in the city step up to the plate and say it’s OK to be who you are, it’ll create a greater open dialogue. LGBT kids should be free to be who they are, and without straight allies, it’s harder.
I know the Phillies are involved in the community, actively involved in the community, and this would be another way to set themselves ahead. I consider them to be the best franchise in baseball and the city and this would be another way for them to establish themselves.