Featured Image from: Compete Magazine
Michael Sam is probably a name you’d remember because he was gay, and not because he was a former SEC Defensive Player of the Year. An award that Jadeveon Clowney, Morris Clairborne, and CJ Mosley previously won, two defense stalwarts of their teams. So, did Michael Sam drop off so bad he was drafted in the seventh round? Maybe he wasn’t so good, and that SEC award was a mistake. Maybe he forgot to play defense, or purposely tanked because he didn’t want a million-dollar pay?
His being gay probably had something to do about it, probably more than anything about his ability to play or the scout report on him. He retired last 2015 due to mental health reasons, and if you know what scrutiny he had to face days before and on draft night, it’s not a mystery why he hung up his boots. On the same period he was supposed to be mentally preparing to be an NFL player, he went from being praised by Barack Obama as a trailblazer to experts just not believing in his talents. He took his talents to Canada, and never became the player he’s supposed to be. Don’t tell me the Patriots saw something in Tom Brady when they drafted him in the sixth round. We’re thinking people, and when there’s a simpler reason to a problem, it’s usually the main cause.
Too bad we see this in all of sports, except on the other side. And we wonder why so many athletes choose to stay hidden? To bow their heads, and wait until everything can’t be taken from them because they chose to reveal sexual orientation during their careers?
We’re Better, But Still Bad
Let’s put things in perspective. There’s never been a better time to be a gay athlete until now. Unless you’re playing or closely involved with the team, then you better put on a mask because the masculinity of athletes must be protected. I am writing this as a straight man, a long-time sports, and someone who sees the hypocrisy in what sports organization try to show with their “actions.” I’d be remiss if I won’t indict the players too, because as the most important figure in all sports, they should wiser now. Gay athletes can’t infect them with their gayness, and how fragile are their masculinity to think like that. I’m not saying LeBron James or Bryce Harper are like these, but if they’ve said something, the world of sports would’ve been more comfortable with homosexual athletes by now. There should’ve been more men and women who shouldn’t be in hiding anymore.
Andrea Barone is a hockey referee, and a former player. You know how he described his experience as someone who came out? “Scarred, heartbroken, and bruised,” he said to the New York Times. This kind of thing is rare in sports, but not because his is a unique case. But because despite his horrid time in hockey, he still chooses to be involved in hockey. He endures it as a gay man, unlike many who can’t (or won’t) come out and opts to ride the wave until what they do isn’t going to harm them for coming out.
The Few We Focus on Are Ruining It
It’s not bad to be gay in sports anymore, I think that’s established. Just as you remember a few caveats: you can’t compete in the highest tier and you’re really going to suffer the ire of being different. You know why? It’s not because that’s the default environment for gay athletes. Most fans would accept gay athletes, which is wildly optimistic. So why is it still hard for homosexual players in virtually any sport to come out? It’s because we focus too much on fans, owners, and organizations that remain in their old, archaic ways. They believe what they’ve always believed about gay people, which is that they’re against a religious belief and that it will infect other people. It’s the same people who believe that transference of AIDS can happen through basic physical contact.
It’s sensational, and that’s probably why we keep putting these things on focus instead of the wider good that the sports community will accept gay athletes. There’s still a chance for them to be completely blackballed. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He’s against one thing, albeit a pretty charged issue that casts a net over all of society. He’s a good-looking, straight, and decent quarterback that’s deserving of at least a reserve role. Yet, he’s not signed to anyone. What chance do a gay athlete has if he even dares to stand with Colin Kaepernick? So, they remain in the shadows, scared that if anyone knows who they really are, they’ll be reduced to their sexuality.
Thank Goodness for Women Leagues
If not for women’s leagues, we would still be in the stone ages when it comes to homosexuality. Gay women are brave for not hiding who they are. There’s an array of all-time greats in all of women’s sports that are out and proud. Diana Taurasi, Abby Wambach, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, and so many more don’t have to hide themselves and are an inspiration to other gay female athletes. There’s still a bit of a problem, but the good is more highlighted than the bad.
Male sports should really take something away at how female sports organizations handle their gay athletes: by treating them like normal people. When it comes to female sports, we all know that they aren’t the most famous, and as revered and equally paid as their male peers. But at least everyone is on the same level. If only the same could be said about men’s sports, we would be focusing on other things right now other than someone’s sexual preference.
Maybe a superstar athlete will come out, and end all the homophobia once and for all because he or she can prove that gay athletes are as good as the heterosexual ones. I hope that happens. I really hope that sports can be better at handling things outside the field that affect their players, fans, and organizations.