It’s not right that professional sports, and especially the professional sports media, have created an environment where gay players are willing to hide essential components of themselves as human beings in order to pursue their dreams, in order to not be a distraction. It’s not right that our insatiable lust for sports coverage creates an atmosphere where someone would willingly subordinate his life to a backward and bigoted worldview in order to stay employed.
It’s not right that we can’t just accept someone for who he is.
Why do people care so much about someone else’s sexuality? Why do people give two s***s how someone else lives his life? Why do people have this absolutely idiotic notion that being gay has any sort of effect on how well a player can play football, or basketball, or baseball? Why the f*** do I even have to write this column for a major news organization to talk about something that shouldn’t even remotely be a factor in sports?
Well, the reason is simple. I’m writing this because no gay player is currently out, and the first gay player who eventually does come out needs to know that — despite all the indoctrination from the league about not being a distraction — if he’s the one to take the first step, he will have allies. He will have support. He will have those of us who realize that people’s sexuality doesn’t define who they are, just as their jobs don’t define who they are, and that guys who bring our wives and children to games and team events are no different than those who would bring their husbands and children.
Most importantly, I’m writing this so that coaches, managers, players, owners and fans realize that the first gay player who comes out won’t spontaneously cause rainbows to erupt out of everyone’s rear.
In professional sports, the players on a team are a team. We eat together. We practice together. We watch film together, and we succeed or fail together. We see each other more than our own families during the season. To think that a gay player is suddenly going to destroy all that because he’s out is asinine.
The idea that a gay player will be a distraction needs to change.
Coaches, administrative personnel — will an openly gay player bring extra attention? Maybe, but guess what — there’s a whole bunch of other crap that happens during the season every year, anything from sexting to arrests to profane letters, and somehow we’ve managed to find a way through it each time without the entire edifice of football collapsing into ruin.
Players — Those of you worried about a gay teammate checking out your ass in the shower, or hitting on you in the steam room, or bringing too much attention to the team — I have four simple words for you. Grow the f*** up. This is our job, we are adults, so would you kindly act like one?
There are millions of people across America who work with gay co-workers every day, and they handle their business without riotous orgies consuming the work environment. In the extremely unlikely event that a gay player harasses you? We have an HR department. File a complaint, just the way a female employee would if you harassed her. If the media want to ask you about a gay teammate? He’s a teammate, and you’re focused on winning — together. As a team.
And finally, to the gay player who does eventually come out, whoever that brave individual happens to be — will you have to deal with media attention, with heightened scrutiny? Yes. Despite everything Brendon, Scott, myself, and all your other allies do, despite all the articles we write and interviews we give, despite the growing acceptance across this entire country, there are going to be people who insist on looking at you through the lens of your sexuality, and not at your skills as a football player. But you know what? All of us understand the truth.