March 07, 2006

Pros Willing to Accept Gay Teammate

Sports Illustrated recently conducted a survey of the four major professional sports (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey) and asked the players if they would welcome an openly gay teammate. This survey was a follow-up to two recent books written by former National Football League players Esera Tuaol and Roy Simmons who have come out as gay since they retired.

Sports Illustrated survey

All sports had a majority of the responses saying yes, they would welcome an openly gay teammate. The NFL was the lowest at 56.9%, while 79.9% of the National Hockey League who replied were affirmative. I suspect this is a reflection of the different nature of the players--there is a much larger number of Europeans in the NHL than any other major sport.

Intrestingly, only 41% of NFL rookies and 48% of the National Basketball Association rookies were open to welcoming a gay teammate. I suspect this closed mindedness is at least partially a reflection of the sense of entitlement and superiority young players have developed, being coddled since they first began showing athletic prowess as youngsters. In this survey, players who had been around longer were more open toward a gay teammate.

This is clearly a step in the direction of acceptance of an openly gay player in one of the major sports. The downside, however, is that over 1/3 of the baseball, basketball, and football players said no. Understanding team sports like I do, I realize that is still a significant number, much too large for anyone to feel comfortable coming out. There is still much progress to be made toward acceptance in the world of major professional team sports.

If any athlete reading this, or if someone you know is an athlete struggling with hiding their sexual orientation, wants someone to write their story, please let me know. The first person to come out in one of the major sports will be a modern day Jackie Robinson and have to deal with a staggering amount of hatred. I would be proud to tell the story of that athlete.

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