Monday, 31 December 2012 11:16
I thought I'd close off the year with the hopeful sense of the inevitability of LGBT advances in professional sports. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King is
"The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice." The other issue is hearing what as a person of color myself, feels more and more out of touch with current reality--MLB's retired Torii Hunter falling back on homophobia justified by his interpretation of the Bible. He misses the irony the same teachings of the Bible were used to justify his ancestors to be owned as slaves in the United States. As we enter into 2013 with a greater understanding of what "human rights" are all about, we see how the prejudice of one's religious beliefs is becoming less of a factor in meeting the needs of American citizens in a professional and secular setting. When Hunter whines having an openly gay player would make him uncomfortable, he wasn't playing for his church's team. He was supposed to have been a professional, and I'm sure didn't cut any slack for racist team players who were uncomfortable playing with him. More and more we see in sports what we see in the rest of the world. The hope for change--and that bending towards justice, is coming from the younger generation of players for whom LGBT concerns are a non-issue. The sooner the Torri Hunters of the professional sports retire and get out of the way of progress, the sooner gay players will be out openly on the field. According to the LATimes
Early in Wade Davis' first NFL training camp, in 2000, a teammate with the Tennessee Titans approached the rookie defensive back with some helpful advice.
If you want to make the team, he whispered, stay away from people who are "different" — a code word Davis instantly knew referred to players suspected of being gay.
So that night Davis, who realized he was "different" during his sophomore year in high school, followed a group of teammates to a nearby strip club where he spent $1,500 to prove he was one of the guys. Yet despite the investment that night, the fear his secret would be discovered followed Davis from the Titans to similar, brief preseason stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins — even to two teams in NFL Europe.
"I would police my behavior," says Davis, who grew up in Shreveport, La., attending services at a Southern Baptist church five times a week. "I would re-create a story that probably never even happened just to make guys think that I was as hyper-masculine as they were. I had kind of honed in on my skill of telling these fantastic lies."
It wasn't until last June, eight years after injuries ended his football career, that the threat of ostracization subsided enough for Davis to end the lies and reveal his homosexuality outside a small circle of family and friends.
And it's not hard to see why. Even though public opposition to same-sex marriage and gay rights is rapidly eroding, the locker rooms and clubhouses of the country's four major sports leagues remain among the last bastions of homophobia in the U.S.
Consider the numbers. About 4,000 players spent time on active rosters in the NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball in 2012. With the best estimates of the gay/bisexual population in U.S. ranging from 2% to 10%, it's likely many of those 4,000 athletes are gay or bisexual.
Yet not one has come out of the closet. Not this year, not last year, not ever.
There are openly gay congressmen and two senators-elect. There has been a gay governor and a cable TV network anchor. Just never an openly gay shortstop, quarterback or power forward.
And changing that would require more than simply challenging convention. It could require a player to challenge his teammates as well.
"It's still taboo in the locker room," explains the Clippers' Grant Hill.
Like in the New England Patriots' locker room. Earlier this season linebacker Brandon Spikes sent out a tweet claiming to be homophobic "just like I'm arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders but I'd still scream if I found one in my bathtub."
Spikes later said he was joking. But former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, among baseball's most thoughtful and intelligent players, isn't kidding when he says an "out" teammate could divide a team.
"For me, as a Christian ... I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it's not right," he says. "It will be difficult and uncomfortable."
David Kopay (Redskins running back), Billy Bean (Dodgers and Padres outfielder) and John Amaechi (NBA center-forward) are gay athletes who waited, like Davis, to come out after their playing careers ended.
Yet an active player coming out may be inevitable.
In the last six months Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz, a featherweight contender, and Kevin McClatchy, former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, revealed they were homosexual. And hyper-masculine males such as Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns and Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings — all of whom are straight — have become impassioned spokesmen for same-sex marriage.
Then there's NBA Commissioner David Stern, who last year said it's no longer a matter of "if" but "when" basketball welcomes its first openly gay player.
"It will happen," he said. "I have no doubt about it."