This Sporting Life

by Stephen H. Miller on February 11, 2014

Professional sports are the last bastions of gay social exclusion in the U.S., at least in terms of popular culture. There are currently no openly gay professional athletes in the four major commercial sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). However, that could be changing. As the Washington Post reports:

On Sunday, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was rated as the 90th-best prospect in May’s National Football League draft. The next morning, the 24-year-old all-American had slipped to No. 160. Only one thing had changed: On Sunday night, Sam announced he is gay. …

Patrick Crayton, a veteran wide receiver who spent the 2013 preseason with the New Orleans Saints, tweeted Sunday night that Sam should “stay in the closet.” Jonathan Vilma, a Saints linebacker, said during an NFL Network interview last week that he had concerns about showering and dressing with a gay teammate nearby.

As another WaPo piece put it, Sam “might be arrested in Vladimir Putin’s Russia just for stepping on a scale.”

The magnitude of social change toward gay people in the developed Western world (Europe, America/Canada, Australia/New Zealand), evidenced by the acceptance of marriage equality, highlights professional sports as one of the last holdouts (along, of course, with conservative religious denominations). But football, like the Boy Scouts, is or ought to be embracing of all, since it’s viewed as part of essential Americana. Challenging and overcoming that remaining bastion is now just a matter of time.

More. Frank Bruni writes: “A news flash for every straight man out there: You’ve been naked in front of a gay man.”

Furthermore. This is inspiring.

Plus, an all-too-true comparison via Instapundit.

{ 5 comments }

Jorge February 11, 2014 at 7:24 pm

I’ll cut a little slack for people to learn. Now teach the football players right and be done with it. They need to get into the 21st century like the rest of us.

The way you present this story reminds me of this training they do at my office about the workplace’s anti-discrimination policies; we had it again just a few weeks ago. When the presenter got into defining sexual harassment, he quickly moved into a long list of things that that are really very heavy flirting: things like elevator eyes, massaging someone, massaging yourself (ahem!), making kissing noises, making naughty comments. Meanwhile the room is packed with stunningly beautiful co-workers of both sexes almost all of whom I know and I’m fighting to stare straight ahead so people don’t think I’m either gay or straight. So my esteemed co-worker says, “Basically we have to just keep our eyes shut!” These are professional, college-educated people.
Without missing a beat, the professional says don’t close your eyes to it, you should report it if you see something.

Oh, excuse me, professional athletes are college-educated, too. Anyway, we have female sports reporters who advance into men’s locker rooms. You think both they and the athletes they cover aren’t given the third degree on appropriate boundaries? But haven’t the boundaries already been broken? I know they’re hiding something somewhere. We can even up the playing field for both good and evil. None of this is new.

Houndentenor February 11, 2014 at 8:51 pm

A few rude comments aside (and there’s always one jerk in any group happy to mouth off), I think this is really going to be a non-issue once it happens. Remember all the fear and trembling about repealing DADT? Are we hearing any horror stories now? No. Because 20 somethings now are very unlikely to care about this sort of thing, at least not for more than a few seconds. They all know gay people. In fact, I’ll venture to say that most NFL players have at some point (HS, college or pro) played with a teammate that they knew or at least strongly suspected was gay or bisexual. It’s only a big deal for people an older generation (the people who run things and do commentary) not for the athletes.

Tom Scharbach February 12, 2014 at 3:46 am

“A news flash for every straight man out there: You’ve been naked in front of a gay man.”

Yup. And your junk wasn’t all that interesting, either. Why straight women bother with most of you is what mystifies most of us.

Mike in Houston February 12, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Watch what Dallas sports anchor, Dale Hansen has to say about this… pretty spot on.

http://youtu.be/Olc5C4SXAYM

Jorge February 13, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Whoa, that Southern charm! I thought only women and African American men had that. Texas is such a nice place to visit. I begin to recognize the power the Jim Crow establishment once had.

Mr. Hansen is right, of course.

“… I don’t understand his world. But I do understand he’s part of mine.”

Celebrate differences, huh? All right. I celebrate straight men. Thank goodness for beautiful men I’ll never sleep with.

I actually wanted to say that all that “locker room” negativity complex gives me dark thoughts. It reminds me of when I went around telling someone about the Jenny Jones show murder as a way as a way of asking if he’d hurt me if I flirted with him (beautiful men I’ll never sleep with indeed). I don’t really believe that the way the world is portrayed in the media will actually influence people’s attitudes in a way that makes things comfortable and pleasant. There is another, a shadow media, that controls.

I wish more people could figure it out.

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