The world has been a place that has not been kind to homosexuals and the professional sports world is no different.
In fact, out of millions of athletes throughout the years, ESPN lists some notable gay athletes and it only stems one page. And the majority of athletes who have come out have been female.
But who can blame these male athletes for not wanting to come out of the closet? They would most likely be treated as an outcast. It is so bad that one athlete on a sports talk show said he would not be comfortable with a homosexual teammate while he was showering because he might get the wrong impression.
Don’t believe me? In 1993 Glenn Burke came out publicly, during an interview.
During the interview in which he admits his homosexuality, Burke said he believes he was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Oakland A’s in 1979 because management suspected his was gay.
Another example occurred in 1998. Paul Priore, who was a former New York Yankees clubhouse assistant, filed a lawsuit against Yankee pitchers Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera and former Yankee pitcher Bob Wickman. He claims that he was humiliated with gay-bashing remarks, harassed and threatened with sexual assault.
There is no doubt that sports, like the rest of the world, has come a long way in respect to homosexuality. There are many athletes who have come out and been treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
In 1994, New York held Gay Games IV, in which more than 11,000 people participated in 31 events. There has also been athletes that have come out of the closet and continued to participate and do well in their sports. Such as Missy Glove in mountain biking, or Ian Roberts in rugby.
It seems that in an individual sport, homosexuality is not as big of a deal as it is in team sports. Which is not a surprising fact considering the amount of time teammates spend together.
When someone is on a team, it is considered to be another family. Those players usually spend more time with their teammates than with their own families.
For example, baseball players are with each other from at least March until September, and if they make the playoffs, they could be with each other till the end of October.
But the sad thing is that most people are not ready for a gay professional athlete. I listen almost everyday to a national radio spors talk show and one day a discussion came up about gay athletes. The majority of the callers were against having a gay athlete because they felt it might affect the young kids who look up to the athlete. Of course it has nothing to do with children and all about their own homophobia. The kids who idolize athletes only care about what they see on the TV screen and are not able to comprehend the difference between homosexual and heterosexual athletes.
Now I am not here to say that people in sports are not comfortable with homosexuals. There’s a list of the athletes who have come out and had great success and everlasting friendship.
Also, men have begun to compete in some sports that have been dominated by women. Cheerleading is an example where the common perception used to be that a guy would only be a cheerleader if he was gay. Now, however, a male cheerleader is no longer a strange sight and people have gotten the hint that not all male cheerleaders are gay.
Gymnastics and dance are other examples that men have begun to compete in and have done well in. In the case of gymnastics, men have been shown in high regard in the Olympics when they bring the medals home.
There are also sports commentators who are open-minded with gays in sports. During one of his shows that deal with homosexuals in sports, Jim Rome was appalled by the blatant homophobia that his callers were calling in with. As a punishment, he banned forever some of the callers who said homophobic remarks.
The sad truth is, people in the country are not ready for a gay sports figure. It was shown that people are not comfortable with homosexuals. That was shown last year in the gay marriage argument.
But in sports, which is considered such a tough-guys world anyway, gays have not yet been welcome. Maybe soon, the times will change.
Justin Satzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.