There's been a lot of activity on the homophobia in professional sports front of late, because, so far, it appears that it's not just BEING out (Jason Collins), it's also supporting LGBT Civil Rights (Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo) that keeps you out of (or in the closet in) the major professional sports leagues (the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball). The diaries on Chris Kluwe's recent post on Deadspin which have appeared since it was published (and there has been some pushback) led me to review the project to have a gay athlete currently playing a major sport, which I wrote about in May, especially in light of some other unconfirmed stuff that I'll write about at the end of the diary.
Below the great orange basketball net for more.
It was actually because of the unconfirmed gossip stuff that I started to look for what had happened, and I found this terrific analysis by Mike Freeman, who has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post, The Inside Story of How the NFL's Plan for Its 1st Openly Gay Player Fell Apart. IMMEDIATELY, there are caveats:
The following account is based on interviews with approximately a dozen people, including team and league officials, current and former players, and gay-rights advocates. Some were directly involved with the discussions that nearly led to the first openly gay NFL player. Further illustrating the intense secrecy, delicacy and fear surrounding the subject, none of the principals wanted to be identified. They also refused to identify the team or the player.Yes, there WAS a team and there IS a player. This really isn't a surprise just given the reality of life in these United States. Yes, the player initiated this, and received a definite yes from one of the 32 teams in the NFL. But then things fell apart, possibly because people like Ayanbadejo, who as you remember made a confident statement about this which he then backed away from.
The sources paint a remarkable picture. At least two or three gay players, each unaware of the other, living in different parts of the country, with different sets of friends and agents, each contemplating the same thing: coming out.Not yet.
Why? Freeman wants us, the sports fans, to know five things:
First: Estimates of how many gay players are in the NFL range widely, but some of them, from people intimately familiar with the league, are far higher than might be assumed by the outside public.Estimates are as high as 30-40 players.
Second: The NFL and union know the identities of some gay players, according to many sources—a gay-rights advocate, a union official and a team official. The league and union learn who these players are from other players and coaches. They keep the identities of these players secret. In some cases, teams do so to protect the players. In many cases, teams learn the identities to avoid signing them as free agents.
Third: The league office backs the idea of an openly gay player, but one high-ranking league official believes the NFL isn't yet ready for one. --snip-- The NFL actually wants an openly gay player because it would be one of the last barriers broken in the sport and show professional football as a tolerant sport. And not everyone thinks the league needs to wait.Jackie Robinson redux? This is plausible given some of the owners around the league (New England, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia).
Fourth: Some individual franchises, however, are not as enthusiastic about the prospect as the league office seems to be. Several team officials say the largest obstacle to an openly gay player is the resistance of a significant number of NFL owners and a smaller number of general managers and coaches.As we see in Chris Kluwe's latest allegations.
Fifth: Many in the league are fearful of acting or even speaking on this subject. Quite simply, teams remain terrified of signing an openly gay player.Richie Incognito, anyone? Chris Culliver, anyone?
Almost like marriage equality, only with marriage equality same-sex marriages ARE recognized in 18 states. Look at the stuff coming out of official Utah, talking about chaos that doesn't exist in briefs that desperately implore a higher court -- ANY higher court --to turn off the faucet that a Federal judge turned on. Fear. It's always fear. Chris Collins isn't playing this year, Chris Kluwe doesn't have a contract, Brendon Ayanbadejo (who, incidentally, thinks Kluwe is 100% right in his Deadspin article) doesn't have a contract.
And that's probably what happened here too, as TWO potential deals fell apart in late spring. One team said that the gay player wanted too much money, but the other
was told the reason why was fear of intense media coverage.Because Jason Collins. And neither of the two athletes had signed with a team by late November 2013. Freeman expounds:
it remains a fact teams fear almost any type of controversy. And this would be one of the more talked about stories ever.His conclusion? By 2018,with the player coming out between 2016 and 2018. Better late than never, I suppose.
So after lots of talk of a gay NFL player coming out, the talk disappeared. Because NFL teams, in the end, got cold feet. It's that simple.
The sport still isn't quite ready for an openly gay NFL player.
But then there's the gossip industry. Remember how outlets like Gawker handled Anderson Cooper and Shepard Smith? Well, one of the gay blogs, which I'd say works at about the level of Gawker and tmz.com but has enough soft-core porn to make it NSFW (which I'm not going to link to for that reason) reported last week that one of the quarterbacks playing this weekend has a live-in boyfriend, and here's Chris Kluwe's take on that at vocativ.com:
I heard about it. He had to go on the website to defend himself. There were claims his personal assistant was his gay lover. I think that it’s unfortunate that we’re at a spot in society that this is something—that someone’s sexuality is a story, or someone’s advocacy for same-sex rights is a story.As Mike Freeman says:
And that is the goal. Reach a day when no one will care.Yeah. That's not realistic. What really has to happen is that a week after free agency ends this season a player on one of the safer teams in terms of homophobia should come out, and then we can see what the fallout is like. All I know is that MLS was able to absorb Robbie Rogers without any major problems. I SERIOUSLY hope that it's the owners and managers and coaches driving this, and not any of the sponsors of pro sports and pro sport broadcasts, because, well, I'm getting impatient.
I hope I'm not dead when that happens.