The Invincible M.A.E. (harleymae) wrote,
The Invincible M.A.E.

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Gay men in sports keep quiet

First of all, I love Cheech. *heart swells*

Second, Petr Sykora, that dirty goon, cross checked a ref in the back and then grinned harmlessly.

Found this article while looking for Sharks stuff. Probably interesting to a lot of y'all.

Gay men in sports keep quiet

By Mark Purdy

Mercury News

When the news about Sheryl Swoopes broke Wednesday, the most heartening reaction was the lack of much reaction.

In 2005, this should be construed as healthy. After the most valuable player of the Women's NBA announced she is gay, nobody either held a huge parade or condemned her. The only ripple of response was positive, giving Swoopes a pat on the back for being so forthright and unafraid.

That was certainly the case at San Jose's most visible gay institution, the DeFrank Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Center.

``A lot of people are talking about it here,'' said Chris Weber, a DeFrank executive. ``For an MVP of her sport to come out while she's still playing . . . it's obviously a big deal.''

Yes. But let's extend this another logical step. What if the big-name team athlete coming out of the locker-room closet Wednesday had been a man?

``That's a real tough question,'' Weber said.

Tough to ponder, perhaps. But not tough to speculate in terms of consequences for the first openly gay athlete dude, whoever he might be.

Those consequences would not be pleasant. Many would probably applaud that first openly gay athlete dude for his courage. But there would be just as many snickers behind his back. His endorsement contracts would probably dissolve. He would be taunted in opposing stadiums and probably shunned by some of his teammates. The gay-hateful remarks of former 49er Garrison Hearst two years ago -- although he later apologized for them -- were hardly unique to one team or one man.

It's odd. But for whatever reason, today's sports consumers are less freaked out by the concept of lesbian athletes than by homosexual male athletes. Is it the smaller and less rabid fan base of female sports? Is it the longtime out-of-the-closet presence of such individual stars as Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King? Or is it a stronger awareness among those who follow women's teams of how little sexual orientation really matters during the course of a game?

All of the above, one would hope. But with guys, none of the above seems to apply. Let's just say we are a long way from Major League Baseball asking fans to vote for an ``All-Time, All-Gay'' team to be honored with a special pregame ceremony at the World Series.

Weber, the DeFrank Center's development director, deals with the general public every day. He is also a sports lover who plays recreational hockey and attends Cal home football games. Weber wants to believe that a male gay pro sports star would be immediately accepted by fans with no ill will. But he's not naive.

``I don't think the climate is right for that to happen just yet,'' Weber said.

There have been several male team-sport athletes who emerged from the closet -- but always after retiring. One very popular theory is that the first major male team athlete to out himself must be a superstar with awesome on-field credentials, who would have to be respected by opponents and teammates for his stand.

I'm not so sure that's how it must happen. My personal belief: The only way gayness can openly arrive in major league sports is through a team effort. If all the gay players in a given sport could somehow be organized to come out of the closet simultaneously, then no one man would have to bear the abuse that might ensue -- or the burden of having to constantly speak about his sexual orientation to the media at every stop on a road trip.

Also, assuming there are at least one or two gay players on nearly every team, then all the locker rooms would adjust at the same time to the New Outed World Order, then go out and play the games and not worry about it. What would occur if something like this happened in, say, the National Football League?

The NFL might not suffer as big a heart attack as you think. There is certainly sensitivity to gay rights in the league front office. Earlier this month, in a well-publicized event, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife were honored by the New York chapter of the PFFLG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) organization. Tagliabue's son is openly gay. New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft also attended the awards banquet and has contributed financially to the organization.

It's a big jump, of course, from having the support of a commissioner and one owner to having the support of an offensive lineman who has to block for a gay running back and share a locker room with him. It will surely happen one day. But in 2005, the culture of football may not yet be ready.

Good wishes to Sheryl Swoopes, who among other things, now has a chance to show us how little being gay matters at crunch time in a playoff game.

Even better wishes to the first guy who makes the same brave announcement that Sheryl Swoopes did. Better wishes, and a whole lot of luck.
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