The real question that I have never understood is why sexual orientation is relevant? But then again, I never understood racism or any other form of discrimination either.
The macho image and tough guy persona in sports are apparently items which seem to foster a homophobic attitude. But the reality is when you look at the real issues behind it, the very concept of the homophobia is completely inconsistent with the alleged ideals presented by most athletes.
On one hand they are judging these gay athletes (or sports business executives or anyone else) SOLELY on their sexual orientation. They do not judge them on their performance. They do not judge them on their spiritual beliefs. They do not judge them on ability to bring about positive social change. They do not judge them on their “goodness” or their contributions to society. The sole criteria on which they are judged is their sexual orientation.
And yet when you look around the locker rooms of professional sports franchises what do you see? Athletes with numerous children with numerous different women? Which is worse for the “institution of marriage?”
And you would be hard pressed to find any lockerroom in professional sports that is not filled with many athletes that have cheated on their spouses? Many openly. Many with the knowledge, aid and consent of those around them. Many proud of their conquests. Which is worse for the “institution of marriage?”
So it is surprising to me when you end up with a lot of discussion and questions regarding this issue. Why is sexual orientation an issue? What are these athletes, agents, sponsors and others so worried about? Are we really that insecure and taht shallow that an individual’s sexual orientation is their sole determinant of our opinion of them.
There are many readers of this blog and many people in all aspects of life that I disagree with. Often very vocally. And yet many of those same indiviudals have values, beliefs, ideas and ideals which I respect in other regards.
Last week we had the Sean Avery comments and attacks at him. Today we had Phoenix Suns president Rick Wells come out and say he is gay. Both are to be commended on taking that lead, yet is it not sad that in today’s society people are still afraid for their jobs, careers and even lives as a result of sexual orientation?
If you look around sports, one of the first leaders to come out was John Amaechi. If you have followed John on Twitter, in his work or his media appearances you will see that the values that he expresses and the ideals which he preaches really have very little to do with gay rights. They are about empowerment. They are about opportunity. They are about hope. They are about items which EVERYONE should be able to support.
The real question is who will be the first gay athlete in a male team sport to come out during the prime of his career or the early part of his career.
If you do the math, they have to exist now. There have to be thousands of high school athletes that are gay. There must be hundreds in college sports. And there have to be dozens in professional sports. The first ones to come out have the opportunity to change a generation and be on the forefront of change. They also have the opportunity for ridicule and to lose their jobs.
It is even more absurd when we compare mens and womens sports and the relatively open acceptance of the issue of sexual orientation in womens sports. Invariably, when I teach class most of the women acknowledge that they have had openly gay teammates. Virtually no men admit to having seen that. Which means that men are still hiding this from everyone around them.
One day we will get past Tim Hardaway’s infamous tirade on ESPN when he stated “I hate gay people.” What he and all others should hate is the atmosphere of hate, anger and discrimination.
But if we are still talking about discrimination against african-americans multiple decades after Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, we have to wonder how long this hated and discrimination will last.
Anything beyond May 16, 2011 is unacceptable.