Some honourees (l-r): Martina Navratilova, Jason Collins, Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis (Photos: AP)
The Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame is honouring its first-ever inductees at a dinner tonight in Chicago.
According to organizers, it's the first organization of its kind in the U.S., and one of its major goals is to "help preserve history."
One of the inductees is the late Glenn Burke. He was an outfielder with the Oakland Athletics and the L.A. Dodgers baseball teams in the 1970s.
Although Burke, who died of AIDS in 1995, did not come out publicly until two years after he left baseball, he maintained that he was run out of the game by "prejudiced and homophobic" managers who knew about his sexual orientation, the Associated Press reports.
Executive Director of the Hall of Fame Bill Gubrud (left) says stories like that are exactly why the organization was created.
"You are not going to know where to go if you don't know where you've been and many in the gay community don't know Glenn Burke," he said.
Illinois gay rights activist Rick Garcia said he hopes the hall of fame encourages young LGBT people to "have a career in sports and excel in that career and still be honest about who they are."
Other honourees at tonight's ceremony will include tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, Olympic diver Greg Louganis, and Jason Collins, the NBA player who became the first openly gay active male professional athlete in the U.S. in April when he publicly revealed he is gay.
Louganis, who is unable to be at tonight's ceremony because he's attending the 2013 World Aquatics Championship, expressed gratitude for his induction.
"It's an honour to be included with that group because of the things they've done and what they have stood for," he said. "I'm very flattered."
LGBT athletes aren't the only honourees at the event. Some of those being inducted have "helped create safe environments for LGBTs to compete in sports at every level," Gubrud said.
English rugby player Ben Cohen is one of those being honoured, thanks to work with The Standup Foundation, an organization he helped create which fights bullying in sports.
Following Friday's dinner, there will be an event on Saturday at Chicago's Wrigley Field called "Out at Wrigley." Organizers say it is the largest 'Gay Day' ever held at a major sporting event.
Chicago was selected as the home base for the hall of fame for various reasons, including the fact that the Chicago Cubs was the first pro sports team to place an ad in a gay newspaper (they did so over a decade ago).
At the moment, there isn't an actual hall in place - organizers say they're looking for funding and working on a plan to find a building where they can house the Hall of Fame.
Via CBS News