I heard this story on NPR and was genuinely surprised. It seems that no major professional male athlete has come out publicly as being gay.
First, let me define my perspective. I’m not gay myself and I only have one or two friends that I’m aware are gay, so the issue doesn’t feel particularly personal to me, which is why I was not aware of some of the facts covered in the NPR story. I see the general discrimination against homosexuals the same way as I see slavery: an ugly stain on human history that is bound to be overcome by the progressive common sense of reasonable people. It’s a ridiculous disrespect of human rights, and the vision of the founding fathers.
I say the following cautiously, but we should distinguish between (what in my mind are) two uses of “gay” in sports. Sports are for tough people, physically and mentally. So the use of the word “gay” that I find less despicable is when it refers to the stereotype of being “feminine” (another nested stereotype). It’s like calling someone a p***y. Perhaps, other words should be used, but I’m rarely a fan of political correctness, so this use of the word “gay” doesn’t bother me as much.
What does bother me, and what I don’t actually see that much in my experience with sports, is genuine homophobia. I think that once a few major professional athletes come out as being gay, both the first and the second use of the word will become obsolete. I’m pretty sure that gay people range (just like straight people) from some of the toughest athletes in the world to the biggest wusses that would much prefer to sit at home with a tub of ice cream and cry over a cheesy romance novel. I respect athletes that have the killer instinct and the mental fortitude to overcome any challenge. I don’t care who they sleep with, fall in love with, or have extra-marital affairs with.