By Jacob McCormick
As homosexuality takes on a stronger and more visible presence in modern American society, so do their vocal opponents. Yet no matter how hard people work to silence the homosexual voice, gays and lesbians continue to come out of the closet and prove that no matter how loud people piss and moan about them, they’re not going to give up on living a happy and productive life.
Gays and lesbians are the most persecuted minority in society today, but the acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality will eventually improve as people realize “yes, gays do indeed deserve an equal chance at succeeding in life.”
However, the world of professional sports is the one realm of society that stands little chance for changing in the near future. As a general sports fan, it’s embarrassing to see athletes who are more comfortable with teammates’ criminal records than their private lives away from sports. You tell me which area has the most negative impact on team chemistry on and off the court/field/diamond?
From kindergarten to the professional ranks, sports have become the pinnacle of masculinity in America. How many fathers do you know that push for their sons to join the cheerleading squad or become interior decorators? Those are two good examples of stereotypical “gay” hobbies or professions, but nowadays the line separating gay and straight archetypes has almost been erased.
Straight men enjoy matching clothes and gay men enjoy playing sports. The problem is that those gay men engaging in stereotypical “straight” hobbies continue to live a lie by disguising their sexual orientation from fear of severe alienation by their ignorant peers.
A prototypical example of idiotic bigotry towards homosexuality in sports is to look at the reaction of ex-NBA player Tim Hardaway right after the coming out of another ex-player, John Amaechi in February 2007.
Obviously Amaechi deserved some attention because of his courageous admission in the wake of a career that could just as easily been pushed into the back of a closet. But because he wasn’t a recognizable face to NBA fans, the attention seemed over-hyped. Yes, it is a big deal, but Amaechi was never All-Star caliber and his coming out hasn’t resulted in a much needed change in anti-gay attitudes in the NBA and/or other professional sports around the country. Since Amaechi’s coming out party and the three month media hangover of coverage, no professional male sports figure has followed suit.
The fact that Hardaway had the guts to speak his mind to the media demonstrated the exact reason why many homosexuals in Amaechi’s position choose to play out their careers in silence. NBA players, along with many other professional athletes in popular leagues such as the NFL and MLB, carry Hardaway-like resentments towards homosexuals. Ironically, as Amaechi points out in his personal biography, the locker room is filled with “gay” activities, such as swapping expensive and flashy clothes, flexing muscles to each other and showing off jewelry. The recent Alex Rodriguez and Mark Sanchez’s photo shoots? Yeah, totally straight.
The only way these bigoted sentiments against gays in sports will change is if a current or former All-Star, who has already won respect from the rest of the league, opens up about his or her homosexuality. People don’t change their positions on hot button issues until it directly impacts their lives and relationships with family and friends.
American society is more accepting of homosexuality than it ever has been, given that 25 years ago it was more acceptable to be openly Communist then gay. For famous athletes still wrestling their inner demons, Amaechi sparked the fire. But a proven, successful athlete needs to fan the flames if we want to see real attitude changes on a mass scale. It is possible as long as a higher tier player is willing to become a martyr for the cause. Only at that point will the sports world see larger steps towards equality than the baby steps that have been taken for too long.
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